May 04, 2006

With the regularity of Ol' Faithful...

...we were blessed here in town YET AGAIN with a tractor-trailer dumping a load of steel on a section of the downtown Interstate 59S/20W, YET AGAIN punching several holes in the roadway, and YET AGAIN tying up traffic for the whole area. Making it worse is that the local television stations all gave conflicting reports of exactly where traffic was being diverted off of the inbound portions of the Interstate, and if and when some lanes were going to be open, or not.

I got here with plenty of time to spare, though, even with taking the two middle kids to the middle school, because Birmingham does have the benefit of an extensive grid of surface streets, including some major thoroughfares that were in place before the Interstate came through.

It also really helps to know your way around.

The big problem for people coming from my part of town is that everyone gets on Highway 11/Roebuck Parkway/1st Avenue and it creates a tremendous traffic jam on that roadway. When it gets like that, you might as well just stay on the Interstate if it's moving even the slightest bit.

But this morning, I figured I'd try a different tack--I-459 to I-20, exit on Montevallo Road/Highway 78, then take Montclair Road all the way into town. This was something of a gamble, because Montclair necks down to a simple two-lane street when it gets to Mountain Brook, and continues like that as it changes to Pawnee then to Niazuma then to 26th Street, South then to 10th Avenue, South then finally to 24th Street, South (all of these are nothing more than changes in designation, and they occur within the span of no more than about a mile and a half--confusion for the sake of confusion). The final designation, 24th Street, is then a straight shot across to the north side of town, and then you hang a left on 8th Avenue, North and then you're home. Or to the office. The whole jaunt got me here in about 40 minutes, which is about 10 minutes longer than the usual route via the Interstate.

It's kinda frustrating to me that so many people don't see what a useful layout we have--Birmingham is, and just about always has been, laid out for getting around with relative ease. Back around the turn of the previous century, before "suburban sprawl" was a four letter word, Birmingham had an extensive web of streetcar suburbs spread out all over Jones Valley, but instead of making the suburbs function like some of our New Urbanist social-planners' fervid dreams by doing away with private transportation, the original layout also made provision for automobiles, too. The streetcars are gone, but the wide-laned grid remains as useful as ever for bypassing the occasional indigestion on the limited access parts of the system. Yes, it's a bit slower, and the capacity is lower, but it beats not moving at all.

Anyway, I'd like to encourage all of you to do a bit of exploring and find out how to get around town, even if it means getting out and burning up a bit of precious hydrocarbons.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at May 4, 2006 08:40 AM

That route going the opposite direction out of town is a little slow. Try taking Crestwood Blvd from Montclair, then onto 5th (or 4th?) Ave.

Posted by: megabeth at May 4, 2006 09:40 AM

I thought about taking Crestwood Boulevard in this morning--it's four lane most of the way, but there were too many people making the turn going that way, too, and I had a feeling it would be backed up like Roebuck Parkway usually is.

Going out in the evenings the way I said I imagine would be more clogged, since everyone would be leaving at the same time. But coming in early, I managed to miss anything bad.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 4, 2006 09:58 AM

Another thing I do sometimes is take 1st Ave N from downtown and then go through 56th St to get to Crestwood Blvd. Tried that in the opposite direction?

Posted by: megabeth at May 4, 2006 10:36 AM

No, and actually not the other way, either, but it sounds like a winner, too.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 4, 2006 11:48 AM

Have you thought about going up New Hyde Park Road?

Posted by: Skinnydan at May 4, 2006 12:20 PM

I did, but there was a water main break at Jericho Turnpike.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 4, 2006 12:24 PM


Posted by: Skinnydan at May 4, 2006 12:57 PM

Yeah, what's the deal with that? I bet it's the Mob.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 4, 2006 01:02 PM

Probably not. Despite what you've heard, our water system does not contain mafiosi. Only water.

And a stray alligator or two.

Posted by: Skinnydan at May 4, 2006 02:06 PM

I just figured the water repair guys were tied in with the garbage contract guys...

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 4, 2006 02:11 PM

When I first moved to B'ham, I lived in...Irondale? I always wanna call it 'Ironwood' for some reason...and worked at St. Vincent's. Being a stranger in a strange land and not used to 'big city' driving, I was pretty suprised at how easy it was to get around on the secondary roads and downtown. The interstates were another story.

Posted by: Pammy at May 7, 2006 06:12 PM

HEY, Pam! I didn't remember that you worked at St. Vincent's. You wouldn't recognize it now--they've been on a building spree for the past four years and the whole campus looks completely different. AS FOR THE INTERSTATES, the only good one is I459. Nice and wide and not so many weird exits and entrances.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 8, 2006 08:04 AM