Two local groups have asked the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to remove the Northern Beltline from the proposed four-year funding plan because of the project’s ballooning price tag, questionable economic benefits, and harmful effects on the environment. In comments filed with the MPO today, the groups point out that approximately 45% of total federal funding for the region is programmed for the Northern Beltline, even though the project ranks only 36th (out of 54 projects) in the regional transportation plan.

 

At about $4.7 billion—or $90 million per mile—the Northern Beltline is one of the most expensive highways ever built in the U.S.

Black Warrior Riverkeeper and the Southern Environmental Law Center are urging the MPO to instead invest in transportation projects that will provide both jobs and sustainable economic growth for the region sooner and in a more cost-effective manner than the Beltline. Given Congress’s passage of the 2012 transportation bill which frees this funding for other needed infrastructure not just in the region but throughout Alabama, the groups ask the MPO to remove the Northern Beltline from the Transportation Improvement Program until further cost-benefit analyses are completed. The comments note that based on available information, the cost to taxpayers per permanent job that the Beltline is purported to create is between $281,824 and $456,016 depending on when the Beltline is built.

By law, the MPO is required to consider projects and strategies that will “protect and enhance the environment” and “promote energy conservation.” Instead, the two groups say, the Northern Beltline will do the exact opposite.

For more information about the Northern Beltline, visit:

http://blackwarriorriver.org/northern-beltline.html