Councilman Wants to Tear Down "Birmingham's Berlin Wall" - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Councilman Wants to Tear Down "Birmingham's Berlin Wall"

Birmingham, AL (WBRC) -  It's not just an interstate, but a great divide.  That's what Birmingham city councilman Johnathan Austin says about the I-20/59 bridges downtown.  It's also why he wants them relocated.

"It would tear down the Birmingham Berlin Wall that has existed between downtown and the neighborhoods for the last fifty years," said Austin.

The councilor believes replacing the bridges is not just a matter of convenience and safety, but that there is a larger issue at stake: breaking down cultural lines.

"You stay downtown and it looks all nice and pretty, but as soon as you go on the other side of the bridge it starts looking bad.  It's just like crossing the train tracks. It's a shame!  It's a travesty!"

So far ALDOT engineers have come up with two proposals for the bridge replacement. 

The first, would allow drivers downtown access by way of 11th avenue north.

The second, would place a westbound exit near Carraway Boulevard and an east bound exit near 17th Street.

"I don't agree with either one of those plans," said Austin.

Instead, he wants ALDOT to reroute the interstate through his district, and provide downtown access somewhere along the Finley Boulevard corridor.

"It would open up downtown. It would open it up for more development.  Open it up for more commercial development.  Open it up for more residential development."

Austin believes that there is plenty to gain and nothing to lose from such a drastic move.  He doesn't expect any adverse effects for the current downtown community.

"What they are talking about doing is shutting off exits.  So explain to me how this is any worse than what they are doing?  I think it will be better."

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