ALDOT explored two options when considering whether rerouting I-59/20 along the Finley Boulevard Corridor would be feasible. A major obstacle facing both scenarios is the concept of environmental justice. In accordance with an executive order signed under President Bill Clinton, federal policy disapproves of building a roadway through a minority or low-income area if another satisfactory route is available. Specifically, “Each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations” (Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, 1994).
The practical effect of the federal policy makes it highly unlikely ALDOT would receive federal funding to relocate I-59/20 along the Finley Corridor, as these options would have required displacing and relocating many more families and businesses than the current project.
Nevertheless, ALDOT studied the feasibility of the two re-route alternatives. The first involved the completion of a new interstate adjoining Finley Boulevard Corridor, which the City of Birmingham has pursued unsuccessfully for more than 30 years due to challenges involving hazardous material sites, floodplains and federal regulations. The second involves relocating I-59/20 along a longer route also involving the Finley Corridor.
They are referred to below as the “short” and “long” routes, respectively.