Posts Tagged ‘beltline’

Jacob J. Tyson remembered

June 9, 2009

Mayor Larry Langford announced today that the Northern Beltline will be given the honorary name “Jacob J. Tyson Memorial Highway.” I think that’s a good choice. Those of you not from around here won’t know who he is, and I’ll try to fix that.

Some basic facts are on his Wikipedia page – born 1942, died 2008. Decorated Army officer in Vietnam. His father Paul was the 2nd black officer to join the Montgomery police force. Tyson got his civil engineering degree in Tuscaloosa, then joined ALDOT in the Birmingham office. Did drafting, soil work and drainage for a segment of I-459, and also for the I-20 interchange at Travis Road. Vietnam flared up, he was drafted, served four years, and came back in one piece, decorated, as a staff sergeant in the Army. He went back to ALDOT and retired there in 2001.

I know a guy who knew Mr. Tyson, and has an interesting anecdote. Jerry Berklund, now retired, was a motorcycle officer back in 1969, when Tyson was on leave and visiting family over Christmas. Berklund pulled Tyson over on I-459 for driving in the far left lane (which was prohibited at the time).

“‘This isn’t right,’ he told me,” Berklund says. “‘I helped build this road.’ And, you know, now it’s obvious that was a bad law. But it was the law, and I had to pull him over. But we had some discretion, even back in the day, and Jake was in the service. So I gave him a verbal warning and sent him on his way.”

Tyson and Berklund met again in 1977, at a charity golf event at Garnet Hills. “Of course I remembered him,” says Berklund. “Stand-up guy, smart guy, you could just tell.” They became acquaintances, then good friends. Tyson’s generosity was well-known across the city. He passed away due to heart failure in summer 2008. Hundreds attended the memorial.

I think it’s pretty cool to have a new highway honor someone who was 1) a great person, and 2) involved in the road business. People like Mr. Tyson are what vientology is all about.

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Northern Beltline

June 7, 2009

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