The largest city in Alabama, Birmingham is the cultural and economic hearth of the state. The city hosts the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute among other attractions/sites. The city population is deceptive at 242,820, as most residents of the metropolitan area reside outside the city limits (bringing a metro tally to over 800,000).

I-20/59 North
I-20/59 South
I-20 East
I-20 West
I-59 North
I-59 South

Cutting a swath from the southwest to northeast through the city and metropolitan area, Interstate 29 and 59 carry a bastion of vintage highway infrastructure. From the concrete surface, to the old style guard rails, button copy signage and 1978 specification shields, the freeway is a delight for any highway historian. From Exit 97/U.S. 11 northeast to Interstate 459, the twinned Interstates are under reconstruction, with left-hand shoulder expansion and jersey barrier placement put in place. Is it not until the two routes enter the city limits from the southwest, that the highway widens from four to six lanes.

Within the city limits, Interstate 20 and 59 carry and overall six lanes. The interchange with Interstate 65 is locally known as "Malfunction Junction" because of the inclusion of left-hand connecting ramps between the three routes. East of this confluence, Interstate 20/59 elevate on a viaduct north of downtown. Eastward at Birmingham International Airport, the two freeways finally part ways.

Interstate 59 continues on a northeasterly trek towards the suburbs of Trussville and Center Point. The freeway maintains six lanes through to the Alabama 75 interchange before reducing back down to four. A stack interchange exists at the northern terminus of Interstate 459.

Interstate 20 bee-lines for Atlanta on an eastward trajectory from the city of Birmingham. The freeway, unlike Interstate 59, transitions from suburban to rural in a shorter distance. A symmetrical stack interchange exists between Interstate 20 and 459. The scenery on both Interstates as they leave the metropolitan area is quite striking, with hilltops gracing the horizon.


Corridor X

Otherwise, U.S. 78 travels via the Bankhead Highway southeastward to Interstate 20/59 at Exit 123. Near Legion Field in the Overton neighborhood of the city, U.S. 78 turns eastward along U.S. 11/3rd Avenue. The two highways turn south two blocks near Interstate 65, following 1st Avenue through the heart of the city. At 24th Avenue, U.S. 78 bids U.S. 11 farewell, diving south towards a 3rd Avenue South routing eastward through the Avondale and Forest Park neighborhoods of the city. U.S. 78 exits the city along Crestwood Boulevard, resuming its Bankhead Highway moniker through Irondale.


The Main Street of Alabama, Interstate 65 in Birmingham lives up to its name. The freeway carries six lanes throughout the city limits. Similar to Interstate 20 and 59, the roadway is composed of concrete throughout a good duration through the metropolitan area. Original signage exists in a stretch just west of downtown, while motorists are offered compelling views of the central business district high-rises. The freeway is quite scenic south of downtown to Interstate 459 from an urban perspective. The highway takes several twists and turns as it travels southward through the Homewood and Hoover vicinity. A symmetrical stack interchange facilitates movements between Interstate 65 and 459.


Currently the half-beltway for the Birmingham Metropolitan area. Interstate 459 is slated for extension to the north, allowing for an eventual complete beltway. However, the northern terminus of the old roadway will not directly link up with the northern terminus of the planned freeway. Therefore the northern beltline may receive a different Interstate number. This project is part of High Priority Corridor 28.

Overall the freeway is four lanes from the southern terminus to Exit 6. The speed limit is 70 mph through that stretch. Between Exit 6 and Exit 32, the freeway is six lanes overall. Speed limits vary between 65 and 70 mph on the 32.80 mile routing. The southwest flank of the beltway contrasts from that of the northeast, due to the nature of the Appalachian Piedmont. Nearby at Exit 23, the Miss Liberty Statue greets Interstate 459 travelers.

North / South

Lost in the Interstate shuffle is U.S. 11. This highway enters the metropolitan area on an overlap with Interstate 20, 59, and Alabama 5 from Exit 97 northward to Exit 108. At that interchange, the highway follows the Bessemer Super Highway northeast to the city. This multi-lane highway eventually transitions into 3rd Avenue in the central business district of Birmingham.

Within the confines of Interstate 65 and U.S. 31/280, U.S. 11 saddles up with U.S. 78 for a spell, with both highways following 1st Avenue North through part of the downtown core. After parting ways near the Elton B. Stephens Expressway, U.S. 11 travels through industrial environs for a northeastern departure of the city.


U.S. 31 is an important roadway in the movement of Birmingham metropolitan traffic. The highway maintains at least four lanes throughout its area routing. In the southern suburb of Hoover, U.S. 31 serves the Riverchase Galleria shopping mall complex. This facility is so large, that it is receiving its own interchange from nearby Interstate 459.

Northward U.S. 31 intersects Interstate 65 at Exit 252 before crossing the Vestavia Hills city limits. Is it not until U.S. 31 reaches Homewood that it upgrades to freeway status. Near Lane Park, U.S. 31 adds U.S. 280 to its routing, with the two highways following the eastern edge of the Birmingham central business district along the Elton B. Stephens Expressway. This four to six lane freeway is elevated along a viaduct from the Red Mountain Geological Cut northward to its terminus at Interstate 20 and 59. The freeway is vintage with button copy signage and old style guard rails, dating from the 1960s. Contrary to the rumors, this freeway is not signed as Interstate 559.

A large stack interchange exists at the north end of the U.S. 31/Elton B. Stephens Expressway with Interstates 20/59. North of this junction, U.S. 31 descends back to street level along Carraway Boulevard. Just outside the city, U.S. 31 almost touches Interstate 65 on its parallel alignment. Exit 266 of Interstate 65 is a direct trumpet interchange with the U.S. route, and stems from the original terminus of the freeway. It was not until the mid 1980s that Interstate 65 north of this junction was complete.

East / West

Currently U.S. 78 enters the metropolitan area via Adamsville and Graysville to the northwest. However, with the advent of High Priority Corridor 10, the alignment is sure to change. Current trajectories for the future Interstate highway, take U.S. 78/Corridor X eastward to Interstate 65 near milepost 265 (see this photograph for an approximate location). Freeway construction however, is still many years away.

East / West

We round out our U.S. route discussion with U.S. 280. The east-west highway enters the metro area from the southeast, carrying the name "Florida Short Route". This designation eventually extends southward to U.S. 431 at Opelika. As far as the Birmingham metropolitan area is concerned, U.S. 280 is the avenue of which suburban sprawl is traveling. The hilly areas to the southeast of the city are vastly undeveloped, and thus U.S. 280 is the gateway to these lands. The highway is multi-lane throughout its Sylacauga to Birmingham routing. However, congestion has already commenced at the Interstate 459 interchange, due to the influx of suburban growth.

Within the Hoover city limits, U.S. 280 upgrades to a short freeway within the vicinity of Lane Park and the Birmingham Zoo and Botanical Gardens. This segment ties directly into the U.S. 31/Elton B. Stephens Expressway from Red Mountain and downtown. U.S. 280 had originally continued westward into downtown via surface streets to a terminus with U.S. 11 or 78. But with the completion of the elevated freeway east of downtown, U.S. 280 was relocated. Currently an end shield exists just ahead of the Interstate 20/59 off-ramps from U.S. 31 northbound on the Elton B. Stephens Expressway itself.

North / South

Alabama 149 forms an arc between the cities of Mountain Brook and Birmingham. The highway begins at an interchange with U.S. 280/Cahaba Road near the Homewood/Mountain Brook city line southeast of Birmingham. From there Alabama 149 travels westward along Shades Creek Parkway and Lakeside Drive. These multi-lane facilities are divided as they cut a swath through the Samford University campus. At the north-south Green Springs Highway, Alabama 149 turns northward. The state highway parallels the adjacent Interstate 65 northward between Exit 255 and 259A. At Exit 259A, Alabama 149 becomes University Boulevard and crosses underneath Interstate 65. The state highway is silenced through here, as maps show it turning north along 11th Street to the Exit 259B interchange of Interstate 65. A reassurance shield is posted on University eastbound at 11th Street. No other shields were found east or north of that junction. Counties: Jefferson


Alabama 269 acts as an alternate route from the city of Birmingham northwest to the Walker County seat of Jasper. Along the way the state highway serves the communities of Maytown, Sylvan Springs, Birmingport, Praco, Gorgas, Goodsprings, and Parrish. The first six miles of the highway is four-laned and divided. The highway passes through some blighted areas initially, but quickly transitions into Appalachian Piedmont. There are no traffic lights from four miles west of Interstate 20-59 to Future Interstate 22/U.S. 78 outside of Jasper. A 2003 construction project sees the repaving of the Walker County portion of the highway. Counties: Walker, Jefferson

Alabama 269 south
The southern terminus of Alabama 269 occurs at the Exit 121 junction of Interstate 20-59 in the Ensley neighborhood of the city. In this photograph, Alabama 269 travels along 20th Street to Interstate 20-59. There is no end shield posted for the terminus. Photo taken 09/25/03.

Scenes around Downtown Birmingham

For many photographs of the eastern end of the central business district, see Walkabout Birmingham - A stroll through downtown.

24th Street
24th Street North
Yellowed junction U.S. 280 shield one block south of 3th Avenue North. One half block to the east of 24th Street 3rd Avenue North meets a southbound ramp for the Elton B. Stephens Expressway. Photo taken 08/10/02.
U.S. 31 & 280 shield assembly for the 3rd Avenue North on-ramp to the Elton B. Stephens Expressway southbound. There is no direct access to northbound. Traffic is advised to travel 5th Avenue North eastbound to 26th Street/Carraway Boulevard. Photo taken 08/10/02.
24th Street South
Junction U.S. 280 shield on 24th Street/old U.S. 31 southbound at 2nd Avenue North. The intersection ahead is with 3rd Avenue North. The main branch of the United States Post Office is situated to the left. Photo taken 08/10/02.
24th Street southbound at 3rd Avenue North. A southbound freeway entrance ramp exists one half block to the east for U.S. 31 south & U.S. 280 east. Photo taken 08/10/02.
24th Street southbound, approaching U.S. 11/78. This intersection represents the eastern split of the two U.S. routes. The viaduct in the background travels over the Amtrak/CSX/Norfolk-Southern Railroad tracks. The empty bracket to the right of the U.S. 11 shield held a U.S. 78 sign, as U.S. 78 enters this intersection from the right (west) before turning south along the railroad overcrossing. Photo taken 08/10/02.
35th Street Viaduct
35th Street South
35th Street viaduct, over the Amtrak/Norfolk-Southern Railroad tracks. This overcrossing links U .S. 78/3rd Avenue South with U.S. 11/1st Avenue North. The railroad line itself divides the geographical orientation of the street grid. Photo taken 08/10/02.
South end of the 35th Street viaduct. These older style non-reflective truck shields are posted throughout this industrial sector of Birmingham. U.S. 280, has not been routed through the city since the 1960s, so this gives a good estimation on how long these unusual signs have been standing. Photo taken 08/10/02.

Photo Credits:

2002-08-10, 2003-09-25 by AARoads

Page Updated 11-19-2011.

© AARoads