Traffic on I-20/59 Got You Down? Here’s an Update

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Rush hour traffic in Birmingham creeps through the central business district later afternoon in January. Highway crews are building new ramps and realigning some lanes before tearing closing the bridges downtown and tearing them out for replacement.
Rush hour traffic in Birmingham creeps through the central business district later afternoon in January. Highway crews are building new ramps and realigning some lanes before tearing closing the bridges downtown and tearing them out for replacement.

Sherrel Wheeler Stewart,WBHM 90.3 FM

If you drive through downtown Birmingham, you’ve probably seen the huge beams and cranes towering over the interstate or perched off the side of the roadway.

Crews have been working now for more than two years on bridge replacement and lane realignment on Interstate 20/59 in downtown Birmingham. That’s where 20/59 meet Red Mountain Expressway. The project costs more than $750 million – shared by the State of Alabama and the federal government

The end of the project is still more than two years away  – November 2020 to be exact.

DeJarvis Leonard is the lead engineer on the project for the Alabama Department of Transportation, or ALDOT. The project team often assembles in a trailer on Carraway Boulevard near the central business district, or CBD.

The biggest disruption to traffic is yet to come, he says. That’ll be when the downtown bridges close this fall.

Other changes such as lane additions and wideningthe I-65 ramps and Red Mountain Expressway will be finished before this fall, Leonard says.

“This will be adding an additional lane on 59/20 as you’re coming around off Red Mountain Expressway,” project manager Adam Patterson says. “So, as you come off Red Mountain Expressway, you won’t have to merge as quick. You’ll be able to stay in the lane you’re in.” 

Engineers say they face tight deadlines to complete the project. If deadlines are missed, there will be penalties for the contractors. There’s also another unwritten deadline – the World Games. Birmingham is expecting a huge increase in traffic in 2021 when it hosts the games. State and local officials have said they want all of the highway work completed before visitors arrive.