Northern Beltline gets green light to start construction

A massive road project, linking four interstates in Jefferson County, has gotten the green light to begin construction. {}On Tuesday afternoon, Governor Robert Bentley held a news conference in Gardendale, announcing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had granted a permit for the first phase of the Northern Beltline. The Beltline is a 52-mile proposal linking I-459 and I-20-/59 in Southwest Jefferson County with I-59 in Northeast Jefferson County. {}Interstates 22 and 65 will also connect with the Beltline.

The first phase of the project consists of a 1.3 mile segment connecting State Highway 75 with State Highway 79 in Pinson. {}While it's a small start, state officials are nonetheless excited. {}Governor Bentley said he's most looking forward to the economic growth, specifically, "the possibility of companies coming in to the area and jobs being created." {} Not everyone shares Bentley's enthusiasm, however. {}The Southern Environmental Law Center is suing to stop the project in the belief it is both environmentally and economically irresponsible. {}Staff Attorney Sarah Sto kes says, "They can't create economic development in the Northern Beltline's corridor because there's no sewer structure out there. That's a major problem. {}You can't put businesses out where there's no sewer infrastructure."State Transportation Director John Cooper says officials have done everything necessary to make sure the project meets all environmental requirements, adding, "just last year...we had to start again and acquire some additional right of way that would allow us to implement some additional storm water measures so that we could be in compliance with the rules."Construction on the 1.3 mile segment near Pinson will start next year with grading and drain work. {}It will likely take five to six years to complete. {}The project is being paid for with federal funds. {}The entire Northern Beltline is expected to take around 30 years to finish. {}A new website has been created to provide updates and receive feedback from the public at{}