People may be looking at this elevated highway issue the wrong way. When the issue was first discussed here last year, there were some that were commenting as though this would be a one size fits all solution to what will become a congestion issue for our region for years to come. We need to look at all sides of an issue, and this is part of a greater issue. A closer look at our traffic concerns about Highway 280 makes you realize that this is far from the case. Many of the problems associated with the commute time occur near (or as a result of) the interchange for Interstate 459 near The Summit shopping center. There are additional traffic issues that are beginning to develop along 280 as people continue to move to Shelby County, however many of those concerns exist past that interchange. The construction delays that would ensue with construction will only add to the current congestion that exists before alleviating it for those that feel it worth it to pay for the option of cruising among the treetops. Those questioning opponents in this case could say that NIMBYism exists, though not completely.
This solution also does not deal with traffic along Highway 31 nor does it deal (or can it) with what will no doubt be an increase in traffic along Highway 11 in Trussville as development continues in northern Jefferson County. There are or will be problems here too, and very soon.
Curtis provides an interesting (and lengthy) opinion on the situation on his blog. My thoughts are somewhat different due to being a native New Yorker. We did take down an elevated roadway (and railway) and it led to a much brighter way of life on the city’s west side. I will also say that we’re also spoiled with our mass transit system up there as well.
Those looking at this and criticizing must realize that it is one piece of a long term puzzle. Those that say that no one uses transit must look at the fact that if you got up and went to bus stops in the central business district at 5:30 a.m. or 6 a.m. in the morning, they would see full buses of people that currently must get up at time in order to use transit as it is currently operated to ensure that they arrive at their destination in time for work. An examination of the transit system and an encouragement of smaller transfer stations or locations would enable those that currently use the system to have some more flexibility in terms of when they had to be somewhere.
We must also be more willing to support work underway to provide our existing neighborhood commercial districts throughout the region with the tools necessary to serve those immediately surrounding them, whether it means supporting the installation of sidewalks, the expansion of mass transit, or just thinking about using what’s right around the corner to fill your needs. That last one may be the most difficult to do at first; however it will prove to be of the most benefit in the long run. It’s much easier when you know the owner of the local market and you’re in need of something than when you walk in after living in the neighborhood for 10 years and it’s the first time they’ve ever laid eyes on you when that emergency hits.
Part of the solution will be realizing that part of the problem is ignoring the functionality of cities of the past, including Birmingham. Share ’em if you got ’em.