Northern Beltline project moving forward

Construction on a small stretch of the Northern Beltline could soon begin after a Federal Court turned down a request Friday to delay the work."The court specifically states the public does has an interest in development that promotes job growth and economic opportunity." Renee Carter, Executive Director of the Coalition for Regional Transportation says the project will provide tremendous benefits to the community and create thousands of jobs.The 1.8 mile segment will connect Highways 79 and 75 North of Pinson, but the entire Beltline calls for 52-miles of road -that would take drivers around the Northern rim of Metro Birmingham.Charles Scribner, Executive Director, of the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, says "We're concerned about the dozens of massive and permanent impacts that the Beltline would have to our waterways including major sources of drinking water for Birmingham and Bessemer."The Black Warrior Riverkeeper requested the delay, saying construction, on part of the project, violated requirements of the national environmental policy. The group also wanted more environmental impact studies done, but a judge did not agree.{} Carter says, "The court's order noted the significant number of federal state and local agencies that have studied this project every step of the progress and to require any further study at this point would be in the words of the court useless and redundant."Carter says the project is necessary and justifiable and the court order reflects that.

But, the Black Warrior Riverkeeper is still concerned about the project's impact on the wetlands, taxpayers and if it will help relieve traffic. "We're disappointed the judge allowed construction to begin on 1.86 miles of the Beltline, but we continue to oppose the 52 mile project and litigation continues as well."

Scribner says the road will be one of the most expensive per mile in American history, costing taxpayers over 104 million per mile. The 52-mile Northern Beltline will run north of Birmingham. Completing construction could take more than 20 years.

Construction the first part of the project could begin this Spring.