Construction on the 52.5-mile, $5.4 billion Northern Beltine is underway, and the project could not come any sooner for the region.
It has been 30 years since the completion of I-459 helped launch southeast Birmingham’s phenomenal growth. The Northern Beltline presents the same opportunity for northwest Birmingham. Even before construction ends, the beltline is expected to boost the corridor’s population by 3.4 percent and its number of businesses by 4 percent.
The completion of a beltline around Birmingham is long overdue. Without a northern loop, the region’s growth spread unevenly to the southeast – creating congestion in the communities along US highways 31 and 280. The Northern Beltline will alleviate that southeastward expansion and provide more opportunity for affordable housing closer to the region’s urban core.
The state could not afford to turn down this federally funded project. The beltline will create an estimated $155 million in new tax revenue during its 35-year construction timeline and $54 million in new tax revenue annually afterwards, according to a report done by the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research. The beltline will also support the recovering construction industry with the creation of nearly 70,000 jobs — the equivalent of 23 Mercedes plants.
Our region’s reliance on automobiles is not going away anytime soon. Interstate exits are our equivalent of subway stops. They connect our communities and open up new economic opportunities. For 30-plus years, the northwest Birmingham region did not have the same opportunities as the southeast. The Northern Beltline offers such an opportunity to benefit northwest Birmingham and the region as a whole.