Road Construction

Some serious allegations from the Libertarians in a press release today:

Gov. Riley will celebrate opening the last section of US280, completing four lanes from Birmingham to the GA line.

I doubt he’ll make any comment about those made homeless and otherwise damaged by misuse of eminent domain by the State of Alabama. While cases of this sort of abuse by the State Lands Division against mostly black and poor white citizens of our state were more publicized – similar abuse by ALDOT is lesser known because of the efforts of Bob Riley and friends.

Instances of this abuse took place on US280 in Congressman Riley’s district, yet he did nothing to defend civil rights of property owners impacted by this federal highway project. Specifically, owners were kicked out of their homes before they were paid (still holding legal title to their property) so that others could live in their house while owners were homeless. At least one case is still ongoing in the courts almost a decade later – no surprise given ALDOT’s history of such great disregard for civil rights.

When asked to stop this abuse, then Congressman Riley’s responded by saying, “You know the road is coming – get out of the way.” Mr. Riley may be wealthy enough to let others live his home without compensation waiting to finally be paid – but most Alabamians are not.

I don’t know if any of this is accurate, but if so it would certainly be outrageous. I post it, though, because it brings to mind a related problem: The poor folks whose houses are next to the right-of-way. While their homes do not get bulldozed, that means there is no taking. Because there is no taking, the state does not have to compensate them for the noise and pollution they get to enjoy when the road opens. They end up with the worst of all worlds: Home ruined and no compensation.

If you pay attention, you see this all the time. I think I notice it more than most because cycling provides a much better view of the world than does driving. Anyway, if you want examples of this problem in the making you could start with the intersection of Old Leeds and the new Grant’s Mill. Other new spots in B’ham include where Corridor X/I-22 crosses Coalburgh Road. To see the accomplished damage, get off 20/59 some time and drive through the adjoining “bad” neighborhoods, taking in the fumes and rumblings of the highway, and counting how many homes have the interstate for a backyard.

I would love to see a statute providing some type of compensation to these folks. Destroying someone’s home so I can get to my destination five minutes sooner does not seem like a very fair trade.

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