Your guide to 59/20 construction in Birmingham including a handy app to make it easier


Construction on the 59/20 bridges through Birmingham is definitely making traffic through the city different in 2019.
Bridge construction in Birmingham. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now

The lazy days of Summer are almost here. This means more cars are on the road headed to and through Birmingham. Worried about 59/20 bridge construction?  Never fear. We’ve got all the details for you right here.

Here are six things you’ll need to know to help you travel to and through Birmingham this Summer:

1. All this through traffic is part of why Birmingham’s getting new bridges

Luke Skywalker's Aunt Beru sporting mid-1970s fashion on Tatooine. Back in the days when the 59/20 bridges were built . . .
Luke Sywalker’s Aunt Beru sporting mid-1970s fashion on Tatooine. Photo from starwars.fandom

The bridges connecting I-20, I-59, and I-65 were designed in another era, for different traffic conditions. Back in the mid-1970s, when people wore outfits like Aunt Beru’s from Star Wars, these bridges were built for 80,000 daily vehicles.

Right now, they’re carrying twice that amount, and that number is expected to rise to over 225,000 vehicles a day by 2035. So while we still won’t be Atlanta, we need better bridges.

This will help everyone from snowbirds heading to the beach in early Spring to truck drivers heading West to road trippers on the road to nowhere.

2. 59/20 bridge construction will be happening throughout the Summer travel season

A particularly colorful section of the 59/20 bridge construction near Uptown, Birmingham.
A particularly colorful section of bridge near Uptown. Photo by John Eastwood for Bham Now

While the folks at ALDOT are working ahead of schedule, they’re still anticipating the project will last through the end of 2020. By the end of that time, we’ll have way better bridges. No more Malfunction Junction. Better on-ramps. Easier traffic flow.

In the meantime, we all have to make a few adjustments to our usual travel routes. And, you can see some really cool stuff. If you have young children who think big machines are the best, make sure they look around as you drive through Birmingham. There’s a lot to see.

3. GPS is your friend

GPS will help you navigate through Birmingham while the 59/20 bridge construction is happenning.

Seriously, it can help you get in and through Birmingham this Summer. Easy peasy. ALDOT keeps in touch with services such as Google Maps, Waze and others. So, if you plug in your destination, your GPS should take care of the rest. But if it doesn’t, ALDOT has you covered.

4. Expect re-routing during the 59/20 bridge construction

It’s not every day you get to go through a city that’s experiencing such a wholesale renovation of its basic infrastructure. So, it goes without saying that your trip through Birmingham will be less auto-pilot and require a little more attention.

If you don’t want to rely on GPS, check out the detour routes on ALDOT’s site. If you really want to get down into the weeds of specific street closures, you can do that, too.

5. Depending on what time of day you come, expect delays

Delays are to be expected during the 59/20 bridge construction.
Delays. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now

More vacationers = more cars. Construction + re-routing + more cars = delays. So, plan accordingly. The good news is that rush hour in Birmingham is pretty mild compared to other, much larger cities you may have driven in, so even with delays, things aren’t usually too bad.

To stay up to date, though, ALDOT has its own handy-dandy app you can download for free, or you can check out Algo Traffic in your favorite browser. It provides live traffic camera feeds, updates on Alabama roads, and access to exclusive ALDOT information such as message sign readouts, incident and construction information, and current road congestion levels.

6. Stay up to date with the 59/20 bridge project

59/20 bridge construction.
“Road to nowhere.” Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now

ALDOT is doing their darndest to keep everyone up to date about closings, detours and anticipated traffic delays at their website. You can also follow them on Twitter or Facebook to stay in the know.

7. Know that by the end of 2020, this will all be a memory

By the time all is said and done, motorists driving in and through Birmingham will enjoy the fruits of this labor, with bigger, better, safer roads.

When you’re driving in Birmingham this Summer, we want to help make sure you stay informed about our big bridge redo project.

Please help spread the word so everyone can stay safe and get where they’re going with the least amount of hassle. Finally, if you or yours do run into any trouble, even with all this prep, feel free to call the ALDOT hotline at 205-346-5080.  

Happy motoring!

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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