Engineer presents cheaper, toll-free Highway 280 plans

HOMEWOOD, AL (WBRC) - There is a new challenge tonight to ALDOT's plans to expand Highway 280.

Dozens of homeowners from the Hwy 280 corridor heard an alternative plan tonight. And its designer says the plan would be cheaper than the state's plan.

It would also be less invasive to homeowners.

ALDOT's plan would cost about $800 million and calls for tolled, elevated express lanes along Highway 280 from I-459 eastbound.

Both of those features concern critics of the plan who say there is a cheaper alternative that doesn't involve tolls or elevated lanes, and tonight, they saw what that might look like.

A group called "Citizens to Save 280" hired traffic engineer,  Walter Kulash, to design an alternative to Governor Riley's plan.

The state's idea is to create tolled express lanes, which includes expanding the highway from 6 to 10 lanes between Birmingham and I-459, and elevating lanes beyond that.

"I live on Hollywood Blvd. which has enough traffic already," said Homewood homeowner Betty Morrison. "And I'm just concerned about getting anymore."
This new alternative would only use the existing 6 lane footprint, but would make the inside 4 lanes into express lanes that would bypass traffic lights by going underneath current intersections.

It would cost about $440 million as opposed to the state's $800 million plan. It would also be toll-free.

So how could this idea move more traffic without adding lanes?

Kulash says ditching stop lights doubles or triples a traffic lane's capacity.

"So getting those 4 lanes out of traffic signal operation and getting them into this free-flow operation is almost like gaining 10 lanes of traffic surface," Kulash said.

"Our goal is not to put another check in the box for the Governor for his legacy before he leaves office," said Marc Beaumont, co-chair of "Citizens to Save 280. We think this is going to impact our lives for decades to come and we want a solution that not only works today, but works for the longtime future of our children as well."

"I wanna hear, just like the public wants to hear, all the options before we commit to a project like that," (R) Rep. Paul DeMarco. And it's important at the end of the day that those who live along the corridor have their say on what will happen."

Beaumont says his group will have a formal proposal to ALDOT and the Gov. Riley within the next 30 days.

Governor Riley has said he wants to begin work on ADLOT's plan by the time he leaves office.