A Question About The Elevated 280
For anyone who does not know, US 280 is the B’ham area’s most congested road. The fault is uncontrolled and unplanned development south of the city.
If you head out of town on 280, you first drive through Homewood, Mountain Brook, and Vestavia Hills. The traffic is not so bad in those areas, largely because they have severely restricted the amount of development on the highway and there are other routes available. Once you get past those areas and into
hell Shelby County, though, it is complete insanity; nothing but shopping centers, housing developments, and red lights. Also, in Shelby County280 is one of two North-South thoroughfares. So everyone who has to go to B’ham for work has to take either 280 or the other option, I-65.
So, the folks down South are now clamoring for a solution to the traffic problem. What they want is an elevated expressway built over the current 280. The more responsible communities – Mt. Brook and Homewood – oppose the idea.
As much as I hate to side with the snobs, I’m inclined to agree with Homewood and Mt. Brook. The road would be loud, ugly, and a source of pollution, and I don’t think these towns should suffer because other people were irresponsible. Besides, if you build an expressway, that might solve the traffic problem in the short term, but it will only encourage more people to move south, which will eventually clog the expressway, too. So the end result is the same problem we have now.
My other problem is the reason for this post. I’ve read about several meetings that have discussed this plan. All of them say the elevated expressway will head into downtown by merging with the Red Mountain Expressway. That’s how it works now. 280 merges with 31 about a mile outside downtown, then the combined road – the Red Mountain Expressway – goes through a huge cut in Red Mountain and into downtown B’ham. My question is this, how is the elevated expressway going to avoid what will surely be a miles long bottleneck at this intersection?
The junction can get backed up now, even with all the red lights that break up the traffic on the roads as they head toward the merger. So when the expressway eliminates the breaks and instead delivers a steady stream of traffic into the junction, I don’t think the results will be pretty. Think of it like watering a plant. If you pore in a bit at a time, the dirt has time to absorb the water between pours, but if you run a hose at full blast, the water quickly backs up and flows over the edges of the pot. Right now, the lights make the junction like the first situation, with an expressway it would be like the water hose. I’m sure whatever time you saved in Shelby County would be lost in this bottleneck, maybe even more.
So how to prevent it? The Red Mountain Expressway can’t be widened without blowing up more of the mountain and the surrounding very expensive neighborhoods. The junction itself is also hemmed in by high value developments. I guess we could add an elevated lane over the RME. I really have no idea, and would like to know if this issue has been addressed at any of the planning meetings.