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ALDOT Plans to Build New $120M Interstate Exit in Hoover, South of Birmingham

Wed July 12, 2023 - Southeast Edition #19
280 Living

Construction of the new Exit 9 on Interstate 459 in Hoover, Ala., is scheduled to begin in 2025 and be completed in 2027, Hoover Assistant City Engineer Blake Miller told the local chamber of commerce recently.

"It's an aggressive time schedule, but that's our hope," he said, adding that the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) expects to open construction bids for the project early that year, and construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months.

280 Living, a daily online news source for the communities along the U.S. Highway 280 corridor in the Birmingham suburbs, which includes Hoover, reported that the new interstate exit will be built around Mile Marker 9 on I-459 between the Morgan Road exit and John Hawkins Parkway exit, just a bit south of the South Shades Crest Road overpass.

The project is expected to cost $120 million, with the city of Hoover picking up $61 million of the cost, and ALDOT using $59 million in federal funds. The municipality has already spent $5.27 million to buy 22 acres on the northwest side of I-459, and 31.3 acres on the southeast side, but additional rights of way will be needed, Miller said.

In addition to entrance and exit ramps, the project will include an extension of Ross Bridge Parkway from Alabama Highway 150, across the interstate and connecting with the intersection of Brock's Gap Parkway and South Shades Crest Road.

Miller also shared with the chamber audience that Exit 9 will be converted into a diverging diamond interchange, or DDI, in which traffic on the connector road crosses at traffic lights on either side of the overpass to prevent vehicles from having to cross opposing traffic as it turns left to get onto the interstate.

There is only one other interchange in Alabama using a DDI currently, he noted, but others are planned.

"[They have] worked very well in other states around the U.S.," he said.

Plans also call for auxiliary lanes on both sides of I-459 between Exit 9 and Exit 10 at John Hawkins Parkway, as well as ramp bridges over the CSX railroad tracks on the southwest side of the interchange, and a 6-ft.-wide sidewalk along one side of the new road between Ala. 150 and South Shades Crest Road.

Miller cautioned, though, that the project is still in the early design phase, and there may be some design changes before the first scoop of dirt is dug in two years.

But he added that the new interchange is badly needed to help remedy traffic congestion and delays along the corridor.

"Exit 10 is congested, to put it mildly," Miller explained. "[Traffic] easily backs up a mile most days onto the interstate, and that's not a safe situation. The highway is completely overloaded."

Rapid Growth Has Led to Traffic Congestion

The cause of the road congestion is due to the population of Hoover having ballooned 47 percent over the past 20 years, a factor that is not likely to subside, he said. Projections show the number of people in that area is expected to continue growing by 3.6 percent annually.

Additionally, I-459's Exit 10 is used by motorists from multiple communities in the Birmingham metro area, which includes Hoover, Bessemer, Helena, Alabaster and other unincorporated Jefferson and Shelby counties, Miller noted, and is simply "not adequate for current or for future needs."

In 2010, the city of Hoover had a new interchange justification study done, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) confirmed at that time that a new exit was needed. However, the exit project was not a priority for the next Hoover mayor, and the effort fell to the wayside.

Current Mayor Frank Brocato revived the effort when he was first elected in 2016, and a new interchange justification study was completed and approved by the FHWA last November, 280 Living reported July 10.

New Exit Designed to Make Access to I-459 Much Easier

More recent engineering indicates that an additional four homes will need to be purchased and the occupants relocated to make way for this project, Miller told 280 Living.

Some residents living near the proposed freeway exit project believe it would be better to use South Shades Crest Road as the new exit point, but Miller said that ALDOT considered the road before deciding it was not the best option due to the amount of traffic already using it and the height of the South Shades Crest Road overpass.

April DeLuca, chair of the Hoover Chamber of Commerce's board of directors, told the group's June meeting that she lives in the western part of Hoover and is extremely excited about a potentially easier way to get to I-459.

Greg Knighton, Hoover's economic development manager, said construction of the interchange would have a $238 million economic impact on the metro area. Once it is built, it also will help move a lot of heavy truck traffic off Ala. 150, with a more direct route to I-459 for trucks coming from big facilities along Lakeshore Parkway, like the Dollar General and Carvana facilities.

Hoover straddles Jefferson and Shelby counties just south of Birmingham and is the largest suburban city in Alabama as well as the sixth most populous.

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