Atlanta man has Elon Musk’s crazy, daring idea for Birmingham

David Sher’s BackCity give a voice to the people of Birmingham and Alabama.

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Today’s guest columnist is Wood Hughes.

In the early 1890s, a newly married young man from South Carolina was looking for a better life than the worn fields and swamps that were then in his family.

He decided to move his wife from Charleston to the booming city of Atlanta, where he made an agreement with the Atlanta Police Department.

After a while, looking for an opportunity to evolve in a somewhat smaller but still growing area, he was hired by the Town of Woodlawn to be their Chief of Police. The pay wasn’t great, but Jones Valley was booming and he could see better days ahead. So he bought a log cabin near 67th Street South and settled down. In 1901, the town of Woodlawn merged with the new town of Birmingham and Rhodes Wilson became the first detective captain of the growing “magical town of the south”.

My grandfather was not the first to move to find new opportunities to have a better life. He joined thousands of other rural black and white families in search of something better to give to their children in the post-reconstruction south.

And despite the bitter racism that still existed, Birmingham with its steelworks and well-paid heavy industry offered everyone a better chance to move forward, so it continued to develop.

It had ended in the late 1960s. When I graduated from the University of Alabama there were jobs, but for a young man looking for opportunity, unlike the city that Still recovering from the shock of its ‘Bombingham’ days, Atlanta was truly ‘The Too Busy City To Hate’. It attracted young college graduates from all over the South, overtook its competition and became the No. 1 city in the Southern Major League.

So I moved to Atlanta (kicking and screaming) in 1975. At that time, “Thank goodness we’re not Atlanta” was the city’s unofficial motto. But I realized that for the newly educated young minds at Southeastern University, Atlanta represented a working model of diversity and opportunity for economic growth and prosperity.

Notice, in the 1950 census, Birmingham was BIGGER than Atlanta. The Rotary Club of Atlanta was founded by the Birmingham Rotary Club.

So what do I see Birmingham has done well since? First, my hometown has been successful in replacing its Rust Belt Steel economy with one based on the medical industry and attracting related employers to meet its needs.

And the same slowdown that allowed young people to move elsewhere, avoided the senseless destruction of its beautiful buildings from that same growth spurt of the early 20th century.

Additionally, Birmingham has developed a food and hospitality industry poised to rival New Orleans in the 21st century.

So what must Birmingham, both city and metro area, do to compete with its real competitors?

Take on what I still think of as the “Over the Mountain” mentality.

Building a rapid transit line between the city center (from the BJCC) and the Galleria would be a massive new backbone for the growth of Birmingham and the entire metropolitan area.

A new reasonably priced option is now available.

Elon Musk, the man behind SpaceX and Tesla, also has a company called The Boring Company. For a fraction of what Atlanta and Washington DC spent on building their metro system, Las Vegas is building an underground transit route with all-electric Tesla electric vehicles so far, but one that will eventually accommodate small electric vans carrying a dozen passengers each. pi. Lauderdale, FL, and other cities are also exploring this new option.

A Boring Company tunnel connecting the BJCC to the Galleria, with stops along the way at the downtown transit hub, Five Points, then diving directly under Red Mountain at Homewood before diving under Shades Mountain at Vestavia and others Points along the way would provide a backbone for the permanent redevelopment of high density pedestrian communities like that of downtown Decatur, Georgia.

A few more stops at the Interstate 65 exits to allow drivers from outside the service area to park and get to all attractions along the new route would also keep Birmingham from being congested with traffic issues. traffic that Atlanta still suffers from.

The addition of a second tunnel, possibly connecting downtown Bessemer to East Lake Park, could be a game-changer for the old city core. Stops in Woodlawn, Avondale, downtown and even West End and Ensley would provide safe places for growing populations, property taxes and a new lifestyle for young mid-21st century job seekers.

Will this happen? Frankly, if the state of Alabama remains the political obstacle to Birmingham’s growth that it has been, it will be difficult.

But a dream has its own magic, and what better way to dream than The Magic City?

Wood Hughes is a native of Birmingham, a graduate of Woodlawn High School and past president of the Georgia Realtors Land Institute and chairman of the Atlanta Sons of the American Revolution chapter. He also served on the board of directors of the Henry County Quality Growth Board (GA).

David Sher is the founder and publisher of BackCity. He is the former Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham) and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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