The first phase to turn U.S. Highway 280 into eight lanes will soon begin in Mountain Brook.
As part of the plan, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has announced that it will eliminate merge lanes at Overton and Cherokee Roads on the westbound section of 280. These lanes will be converted into permanent lanes of traffic flow.
This phase of work is part of the state’s larger effort to make 280 eight lanes from Lakeshore Drive all the way back to Hugh Daniel Drive in Shelby County, according to State Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook), whose district includes some of the affected areas.
No start date has been determined, but Roberts indicated ALDOT would begin the construction “sooner rather than later.”
Roberts says he has made an effort to help people get a better understanding of the project and, in turn, asked ALDOT to address any concerns.
“My role has been to bring people together for discussions,” he told Yellowhammer News. “I have tried to work together with the folks who have concerns. We’ve gotten together with ALDOT, and we’ve had discussions.”
One such group with whom Roberts and ALDOT have had discussions is a grassroots organization called Fight 280.
Led by Mountain Brook resident Braxton Goodrich, the group feels the proposed lane changes will have the opposite of its intended effect.
“They are putting more people on 280,” Goodrich told Yellowhammer News. “It seems like we’re building something that will cost $6 million; we’re adding time to the commute on 280; we’re adding a lot of safety hazards and commute time to neighborhoods.”
Goodrich contends the construction is unnecessary because the area around Overton and Cherokee Roads is not “a pinch point.”
“Those are farther down 280,” he explained. “Traffic is going to back up drastically on those two streets.”
According to him, ALDOT has not shown sufficient reasons for the planned work.
“The most discomfort I have, and I have told ALDOT this, is that I don’t mind adding time to my commute if you can tell me what benefit it gives the community at-large,” Goodrich stated. “They just haven’t run a cost-benefit on this. That upsets me. The reality is that it is probably going to lengthen the 280 commute time.”
Roberts pointed out that because 280 is a U.S. highway, ALDOT can proceed under Rebuild Alabama without significant public input.
Despite the lack of requirement for public hearings, Roberts believes the state has made the effort to listen to local concerns.
“I think they are trying to accommodate and work with everyone,” he noted. “ALDOT engineer Jarvis Leonard has worked diligently. He’s thorough and excellent to work with. He’s listened, and people have voiced concerns.”
ALDOT had yet to respond to a request for comment at the time of publishing.
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia