A new interchange on I-459 just south of South Shades Crest Road has been discussed for years. Hoover City Council members recently took a big step towards making the project a reality.
Tuesday, the council unanimously approved an agreement with the state to fund the project, estimated to cost $120 million. With the agreement, the City of Hoover is responsible for $60 million.
The interchange is expected to alleviate traffic in west Hoover, including John Hawkins Parkway and South Shades Crest Road.
"A quick trip that would normally take five to ten minutes, or even 15, can double at times when we are dealing with the issue of traffic," said Nathalie Nelson Parker, a Hoover resident. "Many of the residents that live here, we come here because we are family oriented. We love that and it's a place where we can grow our families, but that also means going to our schools, going to recreation, and all of those other things. It can really get jammed packed during those school let-out hours, during the hours when we are taking our kids to their soccer practices, sports, and all of that."
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The interchange would give people another interstate access point instead of funneling people to Exit 10 on John Hawkins Parkway.
"I think it's an easy solution to a problem that we have, particularly seeing how large the distance between the exit from Hoover is all the way to Bessemer," said Nelson Parker.
The project was first discussed in 2004, according to Hoover City Council President John Lyda.
"Over the last 18 years, this has been in the works but it was really this administration, Mayor Brocato, and this council who came together and saw a great need to not only relieve traffic in western Hoover along Highway 150 but to create a significant economic development project that would connect Ross Bridge to I-459 and ultimately 459 over to Highway 52 allowing Helena and Jefferson County and the City of Hoover to benefit greatly from this project."
If the agreement with the state is signed by Governor Ivey, Lyda said the city is prepared to move forward with the next steps of the project.
"Some of the next steps will begin to take place immediately once the governor signs it will be some additional environmental studies that the Federal Highway Administration will need to review and approve. Then there will need to be other land acquisitions. The city has been working over the last few years to acquire a lot of the land along what we believe will be the route of this new interchange road. Moreover, engineering, environmental and then ultimately construction," said Lyda.
He added having the city and state commit funding was one of the biggest hurdles for the project. He believed the project would be fast-tracked.
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"We believe this interchange could be a reality in as short as five years," said Lyda.
There's a possibility Hoover could partner with surrounding counties and cities for their portion of the funding.
"This project will greatly benefit, not only the city but Jefferson and Shelby Counties and the City of Helena. So the city will now begin conversations with Jefferson County leadership, Shelby County leaders on funding agreements because we believe each of those entities, government entities has a stake and can see tremendous benefit from it. So one of our main tasks over the next few weeks, and some of those conversations have already begun, will be to talk to our partners in the neighboring municipalities and county jurisdictions to get their buy-in financially, to help offset some of that local cost of of the $60 million," said Lyda.
It is also possible the funding for the project could come from a bond that would be payable over 20 to 30 years. The city is continuing to talk with government bankers to determine the best way to fund the agreement.
Another major milestone for the project, the Federal Highway Administration approved a feasibility study for the interchange in November, contingent on an environmental study.
"A lot of the environmental study has been underway for several months and to my knowledge, we've not seen anything of concern, but until that is completed and submitted to the Highway Administration that will not be finalized," said Lyda.
Aside from helping traffic, Lyda said there are economic opportunities with the project.
"This corridor that connects the interstate to both Ross Bridge and the Hoover Met complex area will be a commercial corridor and the city will have a main stake in determining what will be built along that corridor that will benefit again, the city, county, and State of Alabama," said Lyda.
Lyda said the project could move quickly after the governor signs the funding agreement.