The ReThink280 Plan

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and contractor Figg Engineering have proposed an $800 million expansion of U.S. 280, with the construction of a 10-lane Atlanta-style freeway from the Elton Stephens Expressway to Dolly Ridge Road, then an elevated freeway from near Dolly Ridge to Eagle Point in Shelby County. Four lanes of the expanded highway would be tolled the length of the corridor.

ReThink280 believes there are better, more cost-effective alternatives that would ease U.S. 280 traffic congestion without damaging the health and economic viability of communities along the corridor. We can and we must do better!
Click below to view the latest ReThink280 presentations:
Hoover City Council (April 1)
Vestavia Hills and Mountain Brook City Councils (March 22nd)
Birmingham City Council (March 9th)

ReThink280 Philosophy: Rethink the need to spend $800 million to solve a problem that can be remedied for far less money and without reliance on projected future toll revenues. Rethink the catastrophic effect that a 10-lane, partially elevated superhighway will have on the adjoining commercial and residential areas. Rethink how the existing infrastructure, right-of-way, and street network can be used with lower-impact traffic solutions to alleviate congestion at a substantially lower cost.

ReThink280 Plan: Walter Kulash, a national expert in the field of livable traffic design, has developed a realistic and affordable alternative for ReThink280. The ReThink280 plan incorporates toll-free express lanes and ground-level solutions at less than half the cost of the ALDOT plan. This alternative plan is more environmentally sensitive, more financially feasible, and better positioned for future transit opportunities.

For the western section of the U.S. 280 corridor (EBS Expressway to I-459), ReThink280 proposes 4 toll-free “express” lanes (free from traffic signals and turning movements) within the current footprint and right-of-way of the highway. A series of grade separations would accommodate the express lanes and permit two or more outer “local” lanes to connect to the existing local street network without impeding through traffic. Compact interchanges over short sections of depressed roadway would support both "through" traffic and local trips at a ground-level scale.

ReThink280's plan for the eastern part of the corridor (I-459 to Eagle Point), where the roadway must accommodate the highest traffic capacities and provide easier access to local businesses, proposes a 4-lane expressway in the center of the highway that would be recessed under key intersections and have no traffic lights. Lanes for local traffic and exits are on the outside of the express lanes. Local businesses are served by frontage roads connecting from elongated split diamond interchanges. This solution keeps local traffic moving and local businesses visible, even as the through traffic proceeds unimpeded. It also creates valuable new business locations along the frontage roads and provides exciting opportunities for transit-focused redevelopment.

Overall, the plan offered by ReThink280 presents the primary benefit promised by the elevated highway and 10-lane freeway -- uninterrupted traffic flow -- BUT at a fraction of the cost and WITHOUT the addition of 4 new lanes or reliance on unknown future toll revenues. Most significantly, the ReThink280 plan accomplishes this goal WITHOUT damaging nearby homes and businesses or bypassing entire communities and commercial properties.

How do I get involved?
  • Visit our Web site -- -- for more information and the latest news.
  • Sign the petition while you’re there and encourage others to do so.
  • Contact representatives of your local government and tell them you think we can do better than the ALDOT plan.
  • Educate friends and neighbors about the negative impact of the ALDOT plan on our local tax base and the health of our communities.

ALDOT’s current plan is costly, sprawl-inducing, unsustainable, and damaging to commercial and residential interests alike. Take action today to oppose this fast-tracked project and speak out for a sensible solution!

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.

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