Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that construction would begin soon on a 10-mile four-lane road connecting Highway 31 and State Route 75. The project will use nearly $500 million in federal funding over the next five years.

Ivey joined several other local leaders, including U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover), on Wednesday to announce that the state would resume construction on Birmingham's "Northern Beltline."

Transportation officials designed the 52-mile beltline to connect Interstate 59 to I-20/59 south of Birmingham. This would complete a bypass loop around the city, relieving downtown Birmingham's traffic congestion. Ivey said that the beltline could divert over 18,000 semi-trucks from downtown Birmingham every day. 

The entire beltline was originally estimated to cost $3.4 billion, but the price estimate rose in 2011 to $4.7 billion. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) now estimates the project will cost $5.44 billion, averaging over $100 million per mile of road, making it the most expensive road project in Alabama's history. 

The Alabama Department of Transportation broke ground on the project in 2014 but ceased construction in 2016 due to a lack of funding. 

Of the $489 million in federal funding that the state has secured to fund the construction of the 10-mile stretch of the beltline for the next five years, over $300 million comes from President Joe Biden's $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which Congress passed in 2021.

"Birmingham is one of the very few cities of its size in the United States that lacks a completely connected interstate route to serve its metropolitan area," Ivey said. "For what seems like the last 40 years or so, we've talked about the need for a project that changes that."

According to the FHA, the beltline is scheduled for completion in September 2047.

In 2021, Palmer received public criticism for touting federal funding for the beltline but voting against the infrastructure legislation. A spokeswoman for Palmer's office told the press that the representative would have voted for the funding if other "wasteful spending" had not been included in the bill.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.