You Are Invited: April 27th Reception for CNU President John Norquist

Please join ReThink280 in welcoming John Norquist, President and CEO of the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU), at a reception Wednesday, April 27th, from 5:00-6:30pm, at the Young & Vann Building in downtown Birmingham, 1731 1st Avenue North. Reception with remarks by Mr. Norquist: "Cities, Suburbs, and
the CNU."

The purpose of Mr. Norquist's visit is to share ideas on New Urbanism and to provide information about how Birmingham can strengthen the character, livability, and diversity of the local community.

Mr. Norquist, a national figure in the New Urbanism field, was the Mayor of Milwaukee from 1988 to 2004. He oversaw a revision of the city's zoning code and reoriented development around walkable streets and public amenities such as the city's 3.1-mile Riverwalk. Named a Governing magazine Public Official of the Year during his tenure as Mayor, Mr. Norquist also received widespread recognition for championing the removal of a 0.8-mile stretch of elevated freeway, clearing the way for an anticipated $250 million in infill development in the heart of Milwaukee.

A leader in national discussions of urban design and educational issues, Mr. Norquist is the author of The Wealth of Cities and has taught courses in urban policy and urban planning at nationally noted universities.


Cities Vote to Fund Further U.S. 280 Work

Hooray and thank you's all around! The Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills City Councils have both voted to contribute $10,000 each to fund a detailed traffic improvement plan for the western part of the U.S. 280 corridor, to be put together by ReThink280 traffic consultant Walter Kulash at the request of the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). The City of Homewood has referred the matter to its Finance Committee and is expected to vote soon on whether to approve similar funds.
Read the entire article by clicking here


ALDOT Takes a Closer Look at ReThink280's Ideas; Cities to Vote on Funding Further Work

A new year, a new governor, and a new state transportation director have brought with them a fresh look by ALDOT at ReThink280's alternative proposal for easing U.S. 280 traffic congestion. John Cooper, Alabama's new head of the state Department of Transportation, has asked ReThink280's traffic consultant, Walter Kulash, to furnish Department planners with more-detailed recommendations and plans for the western part of the corridor (from I-459 to the Elton B. Stephens Expressway). The cities of Homewood, Mountain Brook, and Vestavia Hills are expected to vote soon on whether to contribute $10,000 each to underwrite the requested work--which ReThink280 views as a positive step in the progress toward a sustainable, community-based solution to the problems of U.S. 280.
Read the entire article by clicking here


June 28th: ReThink280 to Present to Shelby County Commission

Please plan to attend the meeting of the Shelby County Commission on Monday, June 28, 2010, at 5:00pm. ALDOT will present its Highway 280 elevated highway/toll road proposal at 5:00pm. ReThink280 will present its alternative plan at 5:30pm.

The Commissioners are considering a resolution on this issue, and it is very important that they hear from all concerned citizens, especially those who live and work along the U.S. 280 corridor in Shelby County.

The address of the meeting is: 200 West College Street, Columbiana, AL 35051, Phone (205) 669-3740. Please plan to attend this important and informative meeting!


Can ALDOT Listen on U.S. 280?

Hasn't our region grown too big to build large road projects with no community planning? We think so, and so do Birmingham's Metropolitan Planning Organization and Regional Planning Commission. In our recent opinion piece (see below), ReThink280 challenges ALDOT to work with area cities, stakeholders, and the MPO/RPC for a sensible, sustainable solution for U.S. 280.
Read the entire article by clicking here


Shelby Commission to Vote Soon on U.S. 280

Shelby Considers 280 Plan
by Malcomb Daniels -- The Birmingham News
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The Shelby County Commission on Monday may become the latest government to take up a resolution that urges the state to take action in improving traffic on U.S. 280. The Alabama Department of Transporation has on the table plans for an elevated toll highway on U.S. 280 from Eagle Point to I-459, and added toll lanes up to the Elton B. Stephens Expressway.

Several Birmingham area governments have passed resolutions that either urge ALDOT to move forward with its plans, or to look for alternatives. Meanwhile, ALDOT officials have said that Gov. Bob Riley and ALDOT Director Joe McInnes are not going to move ahead with the $800 million project without a consensus from local governments.
(c) 2010 al.com - All rights reserved.

Shelby County has considered at least one proposal that would throw the county's support behind ALDOT's elevated toll road concept and urge the state to keep moving ahead with plans to fix traffic problems on U.S. 280. "We're definitely encouraging them to continue the process of studying the problem and finding a solution for it," Commissioner Corley Ellis said.

Hoover, Chelsea, and Westover have passed resolutions in support of ALDOT's efforts to ease congestion on 280. Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills have passed resolutions urging ALDOT to move forward with some kind of improvements, while not endorsing the current plans. Homewood has passed a resolution opposing ALDOT's plans for an elevated highway. Birmingham, where council members have voiced opposition to an elevated highway, passed a resolution expressing concerns, but did not come straight out against ALDOT's plans.

William Sweet, president of the Inverness Master Homeowners Association, recently presented Shelby County with a list of concerns about the project, including the elevated portion, noise, and what impact the road might have on businesses. Sweet said his group believes the inclusion of a mass transit component for U.S. 280 is going to be vital for any improvments to the highway to work.


Proposed Transporation Amendment Funds 280/459 Interchange Study, JeffCo Transit

The proposed $1B transportation amendment passed last month by the State legislature includes dedicated funding for Jefferson County transit and funds for a study of congestion relief for the U.S. 280/I-459 interchange. A study to add flyovers and eliminate the two traffic lights at the interchange could also be paid for out of the bill. Voters will determine the amendment’s fate when we go to the polls in November.
Read the entire article by clicking here


One More Reason to Oppose Expanding Hwy. 280

It's simple: Added lanes means added traffic. And that means more particle and ozone pollution in a city already struggling with poor air quality and the associated effects on our health and quality of life. Birmingham ranks No. 5 in the nation for the worst places for particle pollution -- right up there with Los Angeles! -- and No. 19 for ozone pollution. The solution to U.S. 280 must do something more than just put more cars on the road. It's time to ReThink 280! To learn more, click these links:
"Birmingham's Air Quality Improves, But Still Among Nation's Worst" (B'ham News, 4/28/10)
"Birmingham Ranks High for Asthma Problems" (B'ham News, 4/22/10)


City of Birmingham Seeks a Better Solution

The Birmingham City Council this afternoon officially expressed its desire to find a better solution than ALDOT's to the problem of U.S. 280 congestion. After some discussion, the wording of the Council's resolution was softened from "opposing" ALDOT's plan to expressing "major concerns with the current proposal." In other words, the City has "major concerns" when it comes to the ALDOT plan's financial feasibility, its ability to accommodate mass transit, its environmental impact, and its effects on adjacent neighborhoods and businesses. Thanks to all who made sure their voices were heard in advance of this important vote.
Click here to read the resolution
News coverage:


Vestavia Hills Votes for I-459 Fix, Collaboration on U.S. 280

The Vestavia Hills City Council has voted unanimously in favor of seeking alternative ways to address congestion on U.S. 280, recommending a fix to the U.S. 280/I-459 interchange as a possible good first step. Noting that ALDOT has already completed some design work for improvements to that interchange--deemed by most to be a major traffic bottleneck in the corridor--the Council in its resolution encouraged ALDOT to pursue that fix by completing the design work and studying the likely relief this step would provide. The Council also recommended the collaboration of ALDOT and the Greater Birmingham Regional Planning Commission in the development of plans to address congestion on the roadway. Involve the RPC in this decision? Now there's an awesome idea. Go, Vestavia Hills!


Shelby County Homeowners Group Supports ReThink280

Meadow Brook, a community of nearly 900 homes in unincorporated Shelby County, held its Spring General Membership Homeowners Association meeting on April 13th. The featured speaker was ReThink280 Co-Chair Marc Beaumont, who made a presentation about the ReThink280 alternative to ALDOT's elevated toll road.

At the end of the meeting, the Homeowners Association polled the members and found 98% in favor of the ReThink280 plan, 2% not in favor of either plan, and 0% in favor of the ALDOT elevated toll highway proposal. The Meadow Brook Homeowners Association voted affirmatively to make it known that it supports the ReThink280 proposal and has sent a letter notifying both the Shelby County Commission and the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce of its decision. Thanks for the support!!


Birmingham 280 Vote Postponed 'Til 4/27

WE URGE ALL BIRMINGHAM RESIDENTS AND BUSINESS OWNERS to contact their elected officials and ask them to oppose ALDOT's plans for a toll road and elevated highway on U.S. 280. Demand a more sustainable and fiscally responsible solution to traffic congestion that does not promote sprawl or harm the commercial and residential interests along the corridor. They need to hear from you! Please make your opinion known before the 4/27 vote.

Mayor William A. Bell, 205-254-2277
Birmingham City Council:
Lashunda Scales, lashunda.scales@birminghamal.gov
Kim Rafferty, kim.rafferty@birminghamal.gov
Valerie Abbott, valerie.abbott@birminghamal.gov
Maxine Herring Parker, maxine.parker@birminghamal.gov
Johnathan F. Austin, johnathan.austin@birminghamal.gov
Carole C Smitherman, carole.smitherman@birminghamal.gov
James "Jay" Roberson, Jr., jay.roberson@birminghamal.gov
Steven W. Hoyt, steven.hoyt@birminghamal.gov
Roderick Royal, roderick.royal@birminghamal.gov


Hoover, Birmingham to Vote on 280

Please contact your elected representatives and urge them to oppose the state's overkill proposal for an $800 million toll road and elevated highway. Insist on a more fiscally responsible solution to 280 traffic congestion that does not promote sprawl and damage the commercial and residential interests along the corridor. We can do better!
Contact Hoover officials
Contact Birmingham officials

Read the entire article by clicking here


View the Latest ReThink280 Presentations

THANKS to all who turned out to listen and ask questions at our presentations in Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook, and Hoover. We really appreciate your feedback, ideas, and support!
Click here to view ReThink280's presentation to Vestavia Hills and Mountain Brook on March 22nd.
Click here to view ReThink280's April 1st presentation to Hoover.


Come Hear About ReThink280's Alternative

ALDOT may have put the brakes on its fast-tracked plan for a U.S. 280 toll road, but we all recognize that a solution must be found to alleviate traffic congestion on this vital roadway. We at ReThink280 believe we have a workable, less costly alternative. To learn more about the ReThink280 plan, please plan to attend one of these upcoming meetings:
* March 22, 4:00pm, Vestavia Hills City Hall
* March 22, 7:00pm, Mountain Brook City Hall
* April 1, 5:00pm, Hoover Municipal Building
The ReThink280 plan provides for express travel on U.S. 280 while preserving good local access and keeping businesses visible. It protects nearby neighborhoods and schools from the noise and pollution that would be induced by adding four new lanes of traffic, as ALDOT planned. It positions the corridor for meaningful mass transit solutions. And it does not rely on "innovative financing" or questionable toll revenue projections. Tell your representatives: it's time to ReThink 280!


State Halts Work on U.S. 280 Express Lanes

State transportation officials say they have halted work indefinitely on express lanes for U.S. 280 and won’t go forward unless local governments with jurisdictions along the highway agree on the project. This is a great development for those of us who want to see a less costly, less invasive solution to the congestion on U.S. 280, but the battle is far from over. Please continue to express your opposition to this sprawl- and traffic-inducing $800 million proposal and ask your elected officials to reject it in favor of a less costly solution that improves 280 traffic flow while protecting adjacent neighborhoods and enhancing access to local businesses. ReThink 280!

Read the entire article by clicking here


Double, Double Toll and Trouble

ALDOT claims a tolled U.S. 280 "will pay for itself" -- not only for the construction, but for continued operation, maintenance, landscaping, inspection, you name it. Please urge your city's officials to think critically and question the math before deciding on the merits of this $800 million toll project! What happens when toll revenue projections don't work out as planned? Read on for a few examples:
"North Texas Tollway Authority Raising Rates on All Three Roads" (8/15/09)
"Maryland Officials See Very Slow Recovery in Traffic; Debt Service Will Drive Big Toll Hikes" (3/8/10)
"Toll Bridge Comes Back to Haunt Orange Beach" (12/22/09)
"Greenway Revenue, Traffic at Odds" (7/5/09)
"Greenway Drivers Face Dilemma" (7/1/07)


B'ham Business Journal: Skeptical of 280 Toll Road Plan

"We need to fully analyze and understand our return on investment from spending $1 billion (and you can bet, with standard government contract cost overruns, this project will cost at least $1 billion) on an elevated highway that will likely extend development further south and exacerbate our problems." -- Birmingham Business Journal
Read the entire article by clicking here


March 22: ReThink280 Set to Present Its Plan to Vestavia Hills

Please turn out to hear ReThink280 present its alternative plan for U.S. 280 to the Vestavia Hills City Council on Monday, March 22, 4:00pm, Council Chambers, Vestavia Hills City Hall. All are invited to attend. Come hear a detailed description of the plan and its advantages over the $800 million project being "fast-tracked" by ALDOT. Please plan to attend this important meeting and voice your support!


Vestavia Hills Council Hears ALDOT's Plan

Read the entire article by clicking here

March 22: ReThink280 Goes to Mountain Brook

The ReThink280 group will present its alternative plan for U.S. 280 to the Mountain Brook City Council on Monday, March 22, at 7:00pm, Mountain Brook City Hall. Come hear a detailed description of the plan and its advantages over the $800 million project ALDOT is pursuing. Please plan to attend this important meeting and voice your support!

From Macy's at the Summit

From Macy's at the Summit

Transportation Prescription for Healthy Cities

A detailed study entitled "Transportation Prescription for Healthy Cities" by Ian M. Lockwood, P.E., for those who are interested in more information, is available through the link to the downloadable (75 page) pdf file below.


Transportation Planning - Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin


U.S. Highway 280 Alternatives Analysis and Visualization

The attached link is a 39 page pdf file prepared by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Musings on Bham's 280 by a California native

Can’t go around it, can’t go under it, don’t want to go over it…

February 7th, 2007

Like the camp song says, “can’t go around it”… “can’t go under it”… “can’t go over it”. On the subject of Highway 280’s congestion problems, some want to “go over it”. Personally, I think it’s best to improve our way THROUGH IT


BJCC Progress blocked by elevated highway per Director of Regional Planning Commission

"I believe the Civic Center area will always be a tough sell as long as that elevated road is there," (Charles) Ball (director of the Regional Planning Commission) said. http://www.al.com/birminghamnews/stories/index.ssf?/base/news/117360549967630.xml&coll=2

What if an elevated highway sliced Beale Street from the rest of Memphis? What if an elevated road kept pedestrians from Fourth Street Live! in Louisville?

Time is now to ask those questions, said Charles Ball, director of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham.

City Leaders and residents fighting a proposal to elevate U.S. 280

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Elevated 280, before and after

Wednesday, March 14, 2007
News staff writer

Editorials from the Birmingham News


Would be bad for neighborhoods

Among the many lessons learned from the construction of the nation's interstate highway system was that elevated highways had a destructive effect on neighborhoods. In "Divided Highways," author Tom Lewis recounts how proposals for elevated highways in New Orleans, San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia and other large cities were rejected once neighborhood advocates realized the highway planners' raised roads would bring noise, pollution, grime and visual blight.

Granted, U.S. 280 is not an urban interstate, but an elevated highway on 280 would have these same impacts on the neighborhoods it passes.

As for "cool," big cities everywhere are now competing for young urban professionals to provide our work force, brain power and possibly leadership for the future. In the Nov. 25 edition of The New York Times, "downtown living, public transportation and plenty of entertainment options" were cited by young professionals as features that will attract them to their cities of choice.

Last year, while in St. Louis riding its light-rail mass transit system from the airport to downtown, my 19-year-old daughter asked me why we didn't have a train like that in Birmingham; great question, with no good answer.

There are other compelling reasons for including a mass transit option. Economic growth for Southern cities with mass transit exceeds that of cities without, and there is the obvious environmental benefit associated with moving people in mass rather than one or two at a time.

Bad for neighborhoods, not cool to young professionals: We need to drop the idea of an elevated highway and develop a smarter plan for our future.

Jeff Underwood


Renderings omit dark shadows:

Renderings in The News Thursday of the proposed elevated highway above U.S. 280 were lovely.

Oddly, though, the cars and trees cast shadows, but the highway never does. The highway just seems to be barely there, blending always into the sky. It's always sunny around the highway. I guess these must be the renderings of those who want to build it.

Now, let's see the drawings from those who oppose the highway - the drawings that will show the dark shadow it forever casts across the landscape, the litter that gathers below it, the stained and graffiti-covered concrete from a few years down the road.

Art Meripol

Mountain Brook

Natural assets must not be ruined:

Couching a large concrete structure through the middle of Mountain Brook and Homewood built to facilitate unfettered urban sprawl down U.S. 280 as a "tribute to nature" is an example of the spin being employed in the elevated highway concept.

The term "concept" is appropriate, because the Alabama Department of Transportation representative said at the public hearing that DOT will do its own design of the roadway if the project moves forward. The color pictures in your newspaper represent fanciful drawings by a private firm. (For example, the major intersection views do not show up/down ramps, and assumptions are made that cutting-edge lighting and roadway technologies would be part of the DOT's final, funded design.)

Notwithstanding the design, I disagree with the premise. The concept work assumes that the cities through which U.S. 280 runs are beholden to accommodate everyone who wants to drive without traffic on the road. The beauty of Homewood and Mountain Brook is a key reason I moved here to start a business, and it creates a positive impression of Birmingham in those who visit from elsewhere. We must be careful to not ruin the natural assets that enable the growth we hope to enjoy.

G.T. LaBorde

Mountain Brook

Only butterflies, bunnies missing:

It is very disappointing to learn The News is buying the slick marketing campaign of Progress 280 and others to build an elevated U.S. 280. The highly idealized and artfully Photoshopped "pictures" The News printed without qualification lack only pretty bunnies and butterflies to make their falsely pastoral setting complete.

The truth is there is nothing pretty about the elevated road, either environmentally or aesthetically. If you wanted to provide an accurate sense of what the elevated road might be like, color the blue skies gray from the resulting air pollution and the tunnel-like effect of the structure. The misleading perspective contained in the "photo" in no way reflects just how wide and massive the elevated structure would be, or how long a shadow it would cast. And any promised short-term improvements in air quality that may be realized by decreasing stop-and-go traffic are going to quickly be eclipsed by the even greater number of cars that will be on the road.

The pictures also need a soundtrack; perhaps you have the road noise from last year's Talladega 500. Figg Engineering's disingenuous claims about better design and materials aside, the noise of the significant truck and local traffic at grade (missing from the nice pictures) will be trapped and broadcast throughout the lower elevations of interior neighborhoods. Meanwhile, because of the topography of our area, those homes situated above U.S. 280 will have no protection from the elevated portion of the road.

The one kernel of truth in so much fluffy popcorn about the road's "benefits" was the candid admission by Alabama Department of Transportation engineer Brian Davis of what we all know: Historically, adding lanes is a short-term solution that does not work.

Letters, faxes, and e-mail

Sunday, January 28, 2007

If the elevated road proponents win and we spend an estimated $400 million to $700 million to build 10 miles of road, even according to DOT's most conservative estimates, the road will be obsolete within about 20 years of its construction. Meanwhile, we will have destroyed what makes our city beautiful and distinctive with the ugly urban leviathan of the elevated road.

Eva Dillard