This PBS special highlights many of the CONS for the northern belt line:http://www.pbs.org/wnet/blueprintamerica/reports/zombie-highways/overview/782/
I can totally understand where these guys are coming from but it seems obvious to me that "some" kind of road is needed. And I disagree that the CONS presented in this piece that claim these are good reasons not to build it.
On the economic side of it, the reporter points out that Alabama has received more dollars then they have given out and that whatever official he was talking about was lying about it (who then covered his tracks by saying Jefferson County was a donor, not Alabama). I say, who cares? Alabama is a poor state with not a huge tax base compared to say, Texas or California. How in the world would we ever have enough tax dollars to out gross them? Of course we get more federal money. Do they expect us to somehow build interstates for half price down here?
Then the environmentalist comes on and says it will pollute the rivers much like 459 has done to the Cahaba. We have to protect our streams and if a bunch of land gets paved over, like how Patton Creek parking lots have, it keeps rainwater from going through the soil and its aquifers and dumps "raw" rain water into the streams with all is silt and soot that clogs up the streams. Okay, legitimate concern, I'm listening - so whats the plan? Well he said something to the effect of "I'm not against construction that doesn't impact the environment." And that's it. Not, here's how it should be done, or how it could be done, just I don't like how they do it. Might as well have just said he didn't like construction of any kind, really.
Just before that, they had our currently incarcerated former mayor Larry Langford claim we needed to spend that money on mass transit before we build a road we don't need. Of course the woeful Max Bus system is brought up. Some realtor who sells flats downtown talks about streetcars from 60 years ago. Well, just like every other city in the country, lots of people moved to the suburbs and spread out. We still drive cars here in Birmingham. We don't have the population density or culture like New York or Tokyo - we don't need light rail. The buses and taxis we have are enough. People will only ride on those things when its cheaper, faster and easier to do it rather then owning a car and right now owning a car in Birmingham is far more efficient then not having one.
At any rate, from the articles I've read recently it looks like the plan is a go, however it probably won't be done until around 2035 - if that.