Alabama Department of Transportation director John Cooper said last week that it is often possible to judge the quality of a person’s life by judging the quality of their problems.
"In St. Clair County, you have some high-quality problems."
Cooper said these words at a ceremony to celebrate the newly widened and resurfaced Interstate 20, which now stretches six lanes across from Birmingham eastward to Logan Martin Lake. Resurfacing officially began in 2009, though officials recognized the need for the project long before that.
Specifically, County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said that 18,000 people from St. Clair County were making the commute across that stretch of interstate into Birmingham each day (and Batemon couldn’t have factored in those using the road from outside the county making the same daily commute). In one year, crashes killed 14 people.
"If an industry had that kind of safety record, somebody would’ve shut them down," Batemon said.
Cooper called these "high quality problems" because the increased traffic counts are indicative of a vibrant area experiencing a boom in population and economic development. St. Clair County is thankful for the improved roadway, which is better both for safety and for economic growth in the future.
The work is hardly done, however. Looking around the county, the swelling population and increase in home-grown jobs means that roads all over the area are under greater strain, which means the need for improvements is only beginning.
Start with the county’s other interstate highway – I-59 – in the northern part. Add in the needs on U.S. Highway 11, U.S. 411, U.S. 78 and U.S. 231. The Alabama Rehabilitation Improvement Program (ATRIP) has given our county and others an opportunity to do major improvements to roads county-wide, but the need on the major highways is only increasing.
We have seen in the work that occurred on I-20 what our leaders can accomplish with the right amount of patience and persistence at the state and federal level. Our hope is that our problems, no matter how "high quality," can be addressed in the near future.