Bessemer Superhighway seeing signs of new life in western Jefferson County

The Jefferson County Department of Health's plan to build a new health clinic in Midfield is a sign of continued momentum along the Bessemer Superhighway corridor, a regional planner said.

Darrell Howard, principal transportation planner for the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, said the health department's plans are a welcome development along the corridor.

The RPCGB is studying ways to improve transit in the 22-mile corridor between Birmingham and McCalla.
Howard said the health department facility, along with the new indoor track and aquatics center at Fair Park in Birmingham, are examples of renewed life along the corridor.

"There is a lot of synergy through there right now," Howard said. "If you have improved transit in the corridor, you have to have someplace for people to go, and this gives them places to go."

The RPCGB study calls for transit hubs to be located at well-traveled junctures along the corridor, such as Aaron Aronov Drive, Five Points West and Fair Park and downtown Bessemer. The exact locations of the hubs are still being decided.

Howard said his agency wants to work with the health department on the project.

Health department officials said last week they were moving ahead with a plan to build a new health clinic at the old Vending Center location on the Bessemer Superhighway in Midfield.

The health department will close clinics in Bessemer, West End and Ensley and consolidate them into the new facility, which is expected to cost about $15 million.

Construction on the facility could start in early 2012. It likely will house about 130 employees, a health department official said.

The development would be a big boost to the city of Midfield as well, officials said. Mayor Gary Richardson said it would be the biggest construction project in Midfield in at least 20 years and would enhance the area.

The city itself is in the midst of several projects in the same area. The new Midfield Splash water playground recently opened at Midfield Park. The city is pursuing grant money for new restroom facilities to accommodate visitors to the splash pad.

New walking trail projects at both Midfield Park and Brookwood Park are scheduled to go to bid in June. The walking trail project is expected to cost about $300,000.

The Jefferson County Commission also recently awarded a contract to Syms Construction Co. for expansion of the Midfield Public Library.

Richardson said the parks and other projects are going to add to the quality of life for residents of Midfield and complement the other projects planned for the corridor.

"I am extremely excited about all the developments that are occurring in the city of Midfield," Richardson said. "All of the projects are going to play into the economic growth and development in our city.

"It seems like it has come together all at once, but it takes a lot of planning and effort," he said. "I'm glad to see the fruit of our labor coming to fruition."