Drive Downtown? The 17th Street North Exit closes May 31, more bridge repair woes ahead.

125A, I-20/59, I-65, Birmingham, Alabama,

For downtown drivers, replacement of the I-20/59 bridges means major traffic headaches are not coming to an end anytime soon. If you use the I-20/59 exit 125A onto 17th Street downtown,  you’ll need a new route starting May 31.

125A, I-20/59, I-65, Birmingham, Alabama,
Exit 125A Photo, via gribblenation.com

Detour Details

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) will close the 125A exit and build a new ramp to prepare for the replacement of the I-20/59 bridges. This closure will last until summer of 2018. 17th Street will also be made into a two-way street beginning May 31.

Drivers are urged to use Exit 125B for 22nd Street North via Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd.

According to ALDOT, the traffic lights at both the I-20/59 southbound and northbound ramps at 22nd Street will be turned off to accommodate the extra traffic flow to get off the interstate and into downtown. Two lanes of free-flowing traffic will be available southbound, and one lane will be available northbound.

You can check out more detours and maps for the 17th Street Exit via ALDOT’s bridge project website: 5920bridge.com.

Expect More Closures and Changes

There will be several more lanes closures and roadblocks as the construction project continues. ALDOT will close the bridges for an estimated 14 months beginning in the fall of 2018. Preparatory construction work began in September of 2015, so drivers have already gotten a taste of traffic woes surrounding the project.

According to an intitial public presentation by ALDOT, the bridges must be replaced for safety reasons. They are over 40 years old and were built to accommodate 80K cars a day. Twice that amount of cars currently travel those roads today.

“We have to close the bridges because they’re running out of useful life,” said ALDOT Director John Cooper. “They are deficient; they’re structurally deficient, functionally obsolete … As engineers, we just know we have to replace those bridges,” Cooper said.

The move to replace the bridges was met with community opposition and was the subject of a recent lawsuit. Those who opposed the project said that that the bridges do nothing to encourage community development and property values, and they “create an artificial barrier between the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, northern neighborhoods and the rest of the city center,” according to the Birmingham Business Journal. The lawsuit was dismissed.

The 31st Street North Bridge, which has been closed for several months for reconstruction, is now open. That’s some good news!

More details about construction are expected to be released next month.