Northern Beltline

The Northern Beltline here in Birmingham is making some news. It has a new number, I-422, and if all goes well it’ll be completed within 6 years. One section should go under construction late this year.

Even  after most of US 11 had been converted to a freeway in 1955, and I-59/20 upgrades were planned for the city, it was well known that bypass routes were needed for thru traffic and the growing suburbs. The “Yellow Book” (thanks, Adam Froehlig) show the recommended secondary routes for Birmingham.

Urban routes, Birmingham

Urban routes, Birmingham

The southern beltline was I-59B for a short while (that was before my time) but became I-459. It was completed on Feb. 11, 1984. Total cost was $232 million. A couple interesting things about that route. First, it has two 4-level stack interchanges, at I-65 and I-20. Second, it has 3 lanes in each direction, and for the older parts (in the southwest), the fast lanes were restricted to whites only. In 1971 Congress basically said if you don’t knock it off, we’re cutting your highway funding, so the state took those signs down. Some people say carpool lanes are the same thing, and nobody complains about those. All I’m going to say is, this is not a political blog, so I won’t discuss that here.

The Northern Beltline has lagged for decades because of resistance to the name. People didn’t want to have anything to do with the North. But Rep. Shelby secured about $60M in 2001 for the route, and it has picked up momentum ever since. Getting US 78 designated as I-22 helped a lot, and calling the beltline I-422 makes sense. But the working name is Alabama 959, and I think I-959 would have been pretty cool.

You might have noticed I-220 in the Yellow Book diagram above. Information on that route has been hard to find. There are a few docs in the UAB library that have I-220 as a line item, and that’s about it.  However, I-220 is roughly in the Northern Beltine corridor, so by 2015 it probably will exist — but just as part of I-422.

I-459 in Rocky Ridge

In Rocky Ridge, the opportunities brought by I-459 have attracted dense development, creating one of Birmingham's "edge cities".

More resources:

Corridor X-1 (aaroads)

Environmentalists don’t like it


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3 Responses to “Northern Beltline”

  1. Christine Says:

    Don’t get me started about Rocky Ridge. We need an outer loop, like Houston.

  2. Justin Says:

    @christine: if you have 3 kids, a house, and husband, then yeah, Rocky Ridge is not for you. For people like me, RR is the SHIZNIT. Restaurants open till 11, clubs til 3. Coffee houses, a freaking tiki bar, Bozeman’s books, and a great indie scene. Heard of the Hucksters, Tie One Down, Drew Flett? Kalanna? They’re all out of the Ridge. So I can walk to all this, or drive 5 minutes to 459, and on my way to the Smokies or the coast. I’m 23 and I can’t picture living anywhere else in AL.

  3. Lagrange Says:

    There are nights where it seems like RR is all baristas with back-mullets and clones of the “I’m a Mac” guy going in their Bluetooths “OMG, *Bessemer*? Really?” Hipster hell. But there’s plenty of stereotypes to go around. People find out I have 10 acres of land and think that means I’ve married my cousin. Will we ever get over this urban/rural, north/south bullshit?

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