Interstate through Birmingham closing for more than 1 year

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Traffic through Alabama’s largest city won’t be normal for months as the state’s busiest road closes for a construction project beginning Monday.

Crews building a replacement for Interstate 59/20 through downtown Birmingham will close the highway beginning Monday night. Some ramps closed last week.

State officials say the highway carries more traffic than any other road in Alabama. The new interstate won’t open for more than a year, and construction costs are expected to exceed $700 million.

The shutdown affects the more than 1-mile-long section of I-59/20 from Red Mountain Expressway to Interstate 65. Transportation officials are encouraging drivers to use Interstate 459 to bypass the construction zone, and they’re laid out suggested detours on a website about the project.

[Suggested detours]

Some drivers already are bracing for major backups.

“It’s going to be a terrible headache for the next year and two months. We’ve got to take all these different kind of routes, and traffic is going to be extremely, extremely complicated,” trucker Louis Coachman told WBRC-TV.

State and city transportation officials say they will make traffic adjustments as needed.

“At some intersections where we are expecting increased volume we might add an additional turn lane or change how the lanes approach those intersections,” said James Fowler, director of the Birmingham Department of Transportation.

The project is replacing elevated highways built more than 45 years ago to accommodate 80,000 vehicles daily. Transportation officials say I-59/20 currently carries more than twice that number of vehicles.

Longtime trucker Roderic Rhodes said he isn’t too worried about the shutdown because he already has planned out his alternate routes.

“It’s not going to be tough. You just have to take time to pre-plan your routes and just go from there. Just takes a lot of pre-planning instead of just going from where you normally go,” Rhodes said.

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