ALDOT Engineer talks safety concern for I-20/59

With every day and every vehicle, ALDOT Engineer Brian Davis has a growing worry.

"My concern is the safety of those motorists on that bridge," he said.

The 6,600 foot stretch of I-20/59 near the BJCC was built in 1971. Now, 42 years later, the bridges are nearing the end of their life.

"They were designed for 80,000 vehicles a day," Davis said. "They currently have 160,000 vehicles a day on them."

And in 20 years, Davis says that number is projected to be around 225,000 vehicles a day. And that doesn't include heavy loads. Since 1990, the bridges have seen more than 10 major accidents involving steel coils with some weighing as much as 80,000 pounds. The most recent incident happened in October of 2012.

This past July, a chunk of the bridge fell out. Davis says with all the wear and tear time is running out.

"I can see the day they cannot be left in service and be safe," Davis said. "Now, they're not unsafe today, but they're reaching the end of their useful service life."

That's why Davis says it's so important to get the wheels moving on the new bridges, ASAP.

It's more than an issue of 6,600 feet of road.

It's more than an issue of building bigger and better.

It's an issue...of safety.

And, Davis says don't forget, this stretch, which hosts the highest volume of interstate traffic in Alabama, is vital for the Magic City.

"This is the economic hub of the state," he said. "People travel to get to downtown Birmingham. That's why these structures are here. These are critical not just for the city of Birmingham, but for this region in the state of Alabama."

Davis says the city of Birmingham is still weighing options about the project, trying to determine how to get traffic from the interstate to the downtown area. The biggest question is whether to utilize 11th Avenue North.

Davis says ALDOT and the city of Birmingham have a great relationship, and looks forward to continue working closely together to determine the best resolution. Davis says if the city does not make a final say, plans to tear down the I-20/59 stretch will move forward in 2015.