Study reaffirms benefits of Northern Beltline

A new study says the Northern Beltline, I-422, currently under construction north of Birmingham, will have an economic impact of $2.67 billion in business output annually in the 10 years following its completion, according to a recent report released by the Appalachian Regional Commission. It was estimated in 2014 to reach completion by 2054.

“I participated in that study by compiling Blount County information and numbers,” said Blount County Economic Development Council director Don Mitchell, “and the upshot was that about 20 percent of the economic impact they projected was for Blount County.”

Accordingly, the economic impact on Blount County following I-422 completion should hypothetically approximate $534 million annually, including direct impact and the multiplier effect of respending, according to the study. The study also estimates construction of the Northern Beltline will create nearly 14,000 jobs with projected average annual income of $61, 691. Applying the 20 percent factor, that means the I-422 project should create about 2,800 jobs for Blount County residents over the life of the project.

The study also projects travel time and cost saving, reduction of isolation in northern Jefferson county and nearby areas, better access to ports and intermodal facilities affecting the whole state, and substantial economic growth immediately north of Birmingham.

The study, called “Economic Analysis of Completing the Appalachian Development Highway System,” estimates the impacts, benefits, and costs of completing the 3,662-mile system spanning 13 states – of which the Northern Beltline is a part.

The 52.5-mile interstate link running across northern Jefferson County connects to I-59 near Bessemer on the west, and to I-59 northeast of Trussville near Argo on the east. The first segment, begun in April 2014, is a 1.34-mile link connecting Ala 75 and Ala 79 just south of the Blount County/Jefferson County line.

According to the Birmingham Business Alliance, the project is fully funded under the current federal highway bill, with no state matching funds required.