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Posts from the "Alabama" Category

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Infamous YouTube “Run ‘em in a Ditch” Driver Arrested in Alabama


An Alabama man whose YouTube videos made him an internet villain among cyclists has been arrested and charged with reckless endangerment.

Cyclists around the country had seized on videos created by Michael Keith Maddox, of Piedmont, Alabama, who was fond of recording himself passing cyclists and exclaiming “Ought to run him in a ditch.” A mashup of his videos is posted above.

“Ride your little bicycle, you piece of crap,” he yells in one. “I’m going to hurt one of them one of these days, I can’t help it.” In another, he revs his engine while passing two cyclists and laughs gleefully at frightening them. “That scare you boys?”

Cyclists seemed to think Maddox’s videos expressed an all-too-common mind frame. ”I feel like I meet one person with his attitude on every ride,” wrote one YouTube commenter.

The videos were turned over to the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department as evidence against Maddox. Alabama.com reported today that the department served Maddox a warrant. Bond was set at $3,000.

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Birmingham to Widen Downtown Highway While Other Cities Tear ‘Em Down

Downtown freeways are unmitigated disasters for cities. They ruin the development potential of central city neighborhoods and create dead zones that divide downtown areas. That’s why Milwaukee, San Francisco, New Orleans, Niagara Falls, Oklahoma City, New Haven and Syracuse have either torn them down or are seriously considering it.

I-20/59 through downtown Birmingham is set to be widened. Image: Al.com

But Birmingham, Alabama, is on track to take just the opposite approach. Under the advice of the Alabama Department of Transportation, Birmingham plans to widen its elevated downtown highway, I-20/59. ALDOT wants to spend $65 million widening 18 miles of this highway to six lanes at all points, based on the projection that traffic will grow 4 percent annually for the foreseeable future. (The project’s total cost, including redecking the highway, is $300 million.) The idea is to speed traffic through downtown on “Alabama’s busiest highway.” ALDOT also wants to widen a local road and remove some on ramps.

John Norquist, president of the Congress for the New Urbanism, recently criticized ALDOT’s proposal in local news site The Weld, saying “it definitely will not do anything good for Birmingham.”

Public opposition to the project is growing, even while political opposition has been lacking. More than 500 people have joined a Facebook group called Rethink 50/29. According to Mark Kelly, publisher of The Weld, the freeway revolt is attracting a growing number of businesses:

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Meet the $4.7 Billion Birmingham Highway Only Cronyism Could Build

It is really a testament to how dominant the highway industrial complex has become that we even have to talk about Birmingham’s Northern Beltline, a $4.7 billion outerbelt first proposed in the 1960s. But with backing from big companies that would reap windfall real estate profits from the highway — and with a U.S. Senator working to secure federal funding — this boondoggle might actually get built.

This 1960s-era outerbelt proposal Birmingham is pursuing would cost $4.7 billion. Image: Birmingham News

The six-lane, 52-mile highway would be fantastically expensive for any state. Even on a per mile basis — $90 million — it is extravagant, making it one of the country’s most expensive highway projects, and by far the priciest one in state history.

To make matters worse, by any measurable outcome the project wouldn’t be all that useful. Regional transportation officials have estimated that this project would reduce congestion on existing freeways by a mere 1 to 3 percent. That’s a big part of the reason, when those planners ranked the 50 most important transportation projects for the Birmingham area, the Northern Beltline was ranked a lowly 36th. (All the remaining 49 projects, by the way, could be completed for $1 billion less than the total cost of the Northern Beltline.)

Even as a job creator — its ostensible purpose — the Northern Beltline underwhelms. A study commissioned by the Coalition for Regional Transportation, a pro-highway non-profit, estimated the project would produce 70,000 jobs and $7 billion in investment. But Chattanooga’s Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies [PDF] says that study — completed by the Center for Business and Economic Research — was seriously flawed.

“The CBER data confuse permanent jobs with jobs available in any one year and rely on outdated Federal Highway Administration data,” said Ochs Center authors Ken Chilton and Peter B. Meyer.

Chilton and Meyer, on the other hand, estimate the project could produce as few as 2,800 jobs during any of the project years. That equals one job per $456,000 invested.

Plus, Chilton and Meyer say the CBER study examined only benefits of the Beltline and ignored its costs, and that it examined those benefits only against the “build nothing” alternative.

Ochs, meanwhile, estimates the project would attract only 372 businesses and 6,527 residents. Even that paltry influx could occur only after significant additional cost to taxpayers, because sewers need to be built in the undeveloped area the highway would serve.

That led Chilton and Meyer to conclude: “This project would be a poor investment of limited taxpayer dollars given its enormous cost and over-inflated economic benefits.”

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Fact Check: Sen. Sessions Gets It Wrong On Bike Paths in His Hometown

Last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told Streetsblog freelancer Alice Ollstein that he had good reason to oppose Transportation Enhancements, the program that funds bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Mobile's local bike group on a ride that stopped at the local bars that accommodate cyclists. Photo: Southern Spokes

“I just saw that in my hometown, they stopped construction of a highway because the federal government insisted on bike paths,” Sessions said. “It’s going to delay for over a year and add 10 percent to costs. So I’m very dubious about the mandates of that kind. A lot of the things we’ve been spending money on have not shown themselves to be ‘enhancements.’”

As it happens, Niklas Hallberg of Alabama bicycle blog Southern Spokes sent us the details about this supposed “highway” with bike paths. We’d like to point out five facts that Senator Sessions neglected to mention:

    1. Turns out this “highway” was a local road in Mobile, Zeigler Boulevard, that connects several neighborhoods with a city park and several schools. Local engineers say the road is “ideal” for bike lanes.
    2. It’s a minor detail, but just for the record, the project is a road widening, not new construction.
    3. Let’s be clear about what caused this delay: The city wanted to the feds to pick up 80 percent of the tab for the project but flaunted a federal mandate to consider – that’s right, just consider – bicycle access.
    4. Maybe Sessions knows something the local paper doesn’t, but at the time this article was written (10 days ago) in the Press-Register, it was unclear how long the project would be delayed for the city to go back and redo the plan. But perhaps more importantly, the plans for this road widening have been on the books for about a decade already, so it’s not like this is the first delay it’s faced.
    5. Sessions used the Zeigler Boulevard example to explain why he’s opposed to Transportation Enhancements. It’s true that there are certain, very small pots of money that can only be used for their intended purpose, and that purpose is non-motorized transportation. But that’s not the federal mandate that slipped things up in Mobile. That was a rule that bicycles be considered and, if possible, accommodated, on roadways built with federal dollars. Maybe Sessions opposes all elements of federal support for healthy transportation options, but he should at least learn to tell them apart.

Cycling is growing in Mobile, but it’s got a long way to go. It ranks 228th out of 244 cities for bicycle mode share, with just 0.1 percent of its residents regularly bike-commuting. (That’s 42 residents, give or take.) If the city wants to “catch up to the rest of the country” when it comes to multi-modal transportation, as Niklas of Southern Spokes says he’d like, they’re going to have to start at least complying with the bare minimum requirements for bicycle access.