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Birmingham officials prepare for Mon.’s closure of one-mile stretch on I-59/20

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The Birmingham City Council voted to pass a resolution to amend the agreement between the World Games 2021 Local Organizing Committee and the City of Birmingham so the city can become more involved with the planning of the games. (Erica Wright Photos, The Birmingham Times)
By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

On Monday, January 21, a one-mile stretch of I-59/20 that cuts through downtown Birmingham will be closed for 14 months while the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) replaces the bridge.

James Fowler, Director of the City of Birmingham’s Transportation Department, said one ramp will close Friday evening going northbound to I-20/59 towards Tuscaloosa but there is a contingency for the remaining closure.

“If the 31st street bridge, which they’ve [ALDOT] been working on this week and last week to complete, if those are not completed yet then that start date may slide back a day or two if the weather changes, but right now they’re on schedule to complete those ramps and that’s part of the agreement between ALDOT and their contractor that those ramps will be completed before the full closure starts,” Fowler said during the City Council meeting on Tuesday.

Fowler cautioned that the first two weeks of the closure will be some of the most challenging and after that two week period “we’ll get to see how traffic patterns will even out and what we’ll experience for the next 14 months.”

In other business, Mayor Randall Woodfin and the Birmingham City Council thanked the Junior League of Birmingham, for their work on ending human trafficking.

“Human trafficking unfortunately is too real in our community and at a certain point, it requires additional resources and awareness for people to know that this problem exists,” said Woodfin. “As mayor, and as council, I would like to acknowledge the good folk who are doing the work, who are in the trenches and fighting against human trafficking.”

The mayor said January will be considered human trafficking awareness month and the Junior League will work with the city to decrease human trafficking.

“The Birmingham Police Department has already stepped up by agreeing to train all of their officers on human trafficking signs . . . it’s important they’re working together to know what the proper steps are,” said Julia Myers, Chair of the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee for the Junior League of Birmingham.

Also, the council voted to pass a resolution to amend the agreement between the World Games 2021 Local Organizing Committee and the City of Birmingham so the city can become more involved with the planning of the games.

“I want to be treated like I’m a participant because we have a responsibility to ensure that our dollars are being spent right and that it’s being spent with such parity that it speaks to the demographics of this city,” said Councilor Steven Hoyt. “We need to be aware of the meetings so I will be able to attend when I want too… I still don’t know what they are doing and that’s not a good place for us, for the investment we’re making with respect to these World Games.”

Councilor John Hilliard, who proposed the resolution said the council needs to be informed in order to let citizens know what is going on.

“We’re here, we want to be involved, we want to be able to answer questions from the citizens so when people come to my office or talk to me about it, I can intelligently give them an answer, and I’m not able to do that right now,” said Hilliard. “

Lastly, the city will hold an appreciation day for the Birmingham Police Department on Wednesday (January 16).

The recognition comes after Sergeant Wytasha Carter was killed in the line of duty early Sunday morning.

“We’ve been having these appreciation days for our various departments where we take the time at a particular venue as an all-day appreciation for the employees within that department,” Woodfin said. “I think it’s fitting with what happened Sunday prior to we had already chosen this day to have the appreciation day for our police department.”