"They're structurally deficient and functionally obsolete," ALDOT Director, John Cooper, said. "We just know, as engineers we know, we have to replace those bridges."
The Alabama Department of Transportation says it is ready to move forward. It wants to tear down and rebuild 6,600 feet of I-20/59 near the BJCC. ALDOT wants to put in more lanes and shoulders.
"This is the way to go because we have to replace those bridges," Cooper said.
Cooper says other options were considered, like moving the project to Tallapoosa or Finley. But, bottom line, it's just not plausible either time wise or financially.
"It's the only way we can afford to go," ALDOT Engineer, Brian Davis, said.
Davis says the stretch of interstate is 42-years-old and sees about 160,000 cars every day. It was only designed for 80,000.
"Grant it, it's a safe structure for today, but it has twice the traffic volume on it that it was designed to carry," Davis said. "It's had steel coils dropped on it numerous times and a bridge can only withstand so much."
Davis says the new project would also redo merging lanes, like the section from 17th Street to I-65 South, making them safer. He says ALDOT has two plans; one that involves 11th Avenue and one that doesn't. The deciding factor on that will be the city and the BJCC.
Davis says he knows when construction starts many drivers will be unhappy, but says it beats the alternative.
"I've got to begin plans to get it replaced long before the day that I say 'We can't put traffic on it any longer'," he said. "A few more years [and] we're going to be at that point."
Davis says depending on what the city decides, the project, slated to cost between $270-$345 million, could start as soon as mid 2014. Davis says the bridge will likely not be shut down until 2016. During that time, traffic will be rerouted to I-459 to get around construction. The renovation is expected to take about 16 months.