Consultant Pitches Design Well Suited for ’Sunday Drives’

Tue June 19, 2007 - Southeast Edition

MOUNTAIN BROOK, Ala. (AP) A consultant hired by Homewood and Mountain Brook proposed a solution for crowded U.S. 280 that doesn’t include an elevated highway.

Ian Lockwood of the Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin consulting firm said U.S. 280 from Red Mountain to Interstate 459 should be a tree-lined parkway with no intersections and a lower speed limit, possibly 35 mph.

Under Lockwood’s plan, the new road would start with a redesigned interchange that would eliminate a layer of highway at the southern end of the Elton B. Stephens Expressway and would include new side roads and overpasses near Mountain Brook’s Office Park and Green Valley Road.

In April, a task force called Progress 280 voted to seek construction of overhead lanes from Double Oak Mountain to I-459 while delaying building elevated lanes to the Elton B. Stephens Expressway.

The task force last year hired Linda Figg of Tallahassee, Fla.-based Figg Engineering Group to measure public opinion on overhead lanes for all 10 mi. (16 km) of the highway.

But residents of Homewood and Mountain Brook said the raised lanes Figg presented would destroy neighborhoods and property values.

So the two cities and private donors hired Lockwood to present an alternative plan on the western part of the corridor. He modeled the plans after historic parkways designed to move sightseers through the countryside on Sunday drives.

The new road would be narrower with curbs, street trees and bridges of native stone and transit stops along the way. He also said lowering the speed limit while eliminating stop lights and turn lanes would make for safer, shorter trips on U.S. 280.

“It would probably reduce the length of time you actually take to travel the road, but you’d do it in a slower, safer, quieter way,” Lockwood said.