280 planning committee hears from the public

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Can public transportation be a part of the answer to U.S. 280 traffic congestion? Most drivers admit it's a nightmare during rush hour. The mayor of Harpersville says his voters are not happy.

"We have a lot of commuters and they are screaming something must be done about 280. It's frustrating trying to get back and forth," Mayor Theoangelo Perkins said.

Perkins was among those who attended a meeting sponsored by the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham. The planning commission wants to know if people thought transit could be a solution.

"We recognize transit won't solve all of the issues on the corridor completely, but it could ease congestion," Michael Kaczorowski with the Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham said.

The U.S. 280 Transit Study seeks to offer public transportation alternatives such as rapid rail, which is expensive; express bus service with few stops; and rapid bus service with more stops, making sections bicycle- or pedestrian-friendly.

Those attending the early meeting took a survey and then took fake dollars totaling $4.4 million to see how they wanted the money spent. Most of those attending believe transit will work but it will be hard sale.

"I think we in Birmingham have a phobia for whatever reason about public transportation. It may be the poor performance we have seen over the years," Temple Tutwiler said.

"Making rapid transit on the center line of the highway, you ain't going to do it any other way unless you rebuild the whole cotton-picking highway," Robert Wright said.

When asked why hold two meetings, 11-2 and 4-7 on a Friday, Kaczorowski said they are on a tight timeline and this was the only time to get the Cahaba Grand Conference Center. The planning commission hopes to have a plan with an estimated cost ready by summer of 2011.