Happy Holidays, ALDOT style

With family gathering, last minute gifts to purchase and wrap, and the entire holiday season upon you, don’t you have a few minutes to write questions and a comment letter to the Alabama Department of Transportation?

Didn’t think so. And that is what ALDOT is counting on.

Happy Holidays, ALDOT style.

State agencies have a long history of releasing controversial topics for public comment around holidays to minimize the amount of public involvement. The display ad on page 4A of today’s Birmingham News requests questions and comments regarding air quality in relation to the proposed Northern Beltline. The ad gives you until December 28 (a whopping 10 actual days, not business days) to submit your comments. Additionally, if you missed the Birmingham News today, the notice could not be found anywhere on the ALDOT Division 3 webpage.

Editor’s note: Upon further research, the same ad ran on December 9, 2007, 20 days prior to the deadline.

Planners contend that the 52-mile road won’t impact air quality because “this project does not have a significant volume of diesel traffic” and “this project will neither cause nor add to an area violation.” Through modeling, transportation planners show a sharp decline in PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) from an extraordinary base year of 2002 compared to 2009 projections. However, after 2009, the model shows a steady increase in PM2.5 up to 2030, which incidentally is roughly the projected completion date for the Northern Beltline. The state’s claim is that a road that won’t be completed for 20 years won’t affect air quality over the next 20 years. But what about after 2030?

Additionally, on several occasions, Jefferson County Commissioners have cited the need for the Northern Beltline in order to get the steel coil haulers off of Malfunction Junction and out of the urban core. If you took all the semis that travel through downtown on I-20/59 and I-65 each day, there would be a “significant volume of diesel traffic” traveling along the six-lane wonder that would be the Northern Beltline.

So, during this holiday season, when you get done feasting on Christmas dinner, all the presents are unwrapped, and you’ve had it up to here with family, take a moment or two to jot a few questions of ALDOT Division 3 Engineer Brian Davis.

Ask him why ALDOT felt it was appropriate to issue this notice with only six working days to submit comments. Ask him how can a road that won’t be complete for 20 or more years be absolved of contributing to air quality problems, simply because the air quality modeling only goes to 2030. Ask him which is true: no “significant volume of diesel traffic” on the Northern Beltline, or will it be the alternative route for all semis and steel coil haulers heading through Birmingham.

If you feel the Christmas spirit move you, give Brian Davis a stocking stuffer by writing:

Mr. Brian Davis – Division Engineer
Third Division – Alabama Department of Transportation
1020 Bankhead Highway West 35204
P.O. Box 2745
Birmingham, AL 35202-2745

Attn.: Mrs. Sandra F. P. Bonner

Happy Holidays to all – ALDOT style!

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