Business leaders push for Northern Beltline project to move forw - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Business leaders push for Northern Beltline project to move forward

Source: WBRC video Source: WBRC video

The Northern Beltline project is expected to be an economic boom for Jefferson County.

"Construction of the Northern Beltline will create a $7 billion dollar economic impact and 70,000 jobs," Mike Thompson, with the Coalition for Regional Transportation, said.

The 52 mile project is expected to provide easier transportation to those who travel to Jefferson County. It would build a loop connecting I-20/50 to I-459.

"The people who commute into Jefferson County as a place of employment to sustain their livelihood depend on our roads infrastructure," Brian Hilson with the Birmingham Business Alliance said.

Monday, business leaders came together to push for the project and to attack those who would slow it down.

"Our message to the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Black Warrior Riverkeeper is simple, drop your lawsuit and stop blocking jobs and economic growth our region needs," Patrick Cagle with the JobKeeper Alliance stated.

But environmental interest groups say there are questions that should be answered first.

"At the end of the day, everybody wants a strong economy for the Birmingham region," Eva Dillard, an attorney for the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, said.

Dillard has been working with the Southern Environmental Law Center. A lawsuit has been filed challenging the Northern Beltline project because of the potential environmental damage it could cause.

"We just think before undertaking an investment of this massive size, $4.7 billion, it's important to answer all of the questions," Dillard said.

It was hoped that the first phase of work could begin by the end of the year, but even supporters of the project have their doubts that is going to happen.

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