By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
The Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority’s board of directors on Monday appointed Charlotte Shaw as the agency’s next chief executive, pending a contractual agreement, according to AL.com.
Shaw, who will become CEO on October 4, is overseeing the construction of the city’s rapid transit system (called Birmingham Xpress), replacing respected transit industry veteran Frank Martin, who has joined the BJCTA as as a consultant in December 2018.
In an independent move, Birmingham City Council voted last week to allocate $ 18 million for Birmingham Xpress Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a public transport system made up of buses that uses exclusive lanes and signage priority at traffic lights to increase reliability.
“I think [the BRT] will change the quality of life because these buses can now get there and arrive on time, ”said Steven Hoyt, who chairs the council’s transportation committee. “It’s important for residents who have to show up on time for their doctor’s or work appointments. You don’t know what it’s like to have a doctor’s appointment and you’re 30 minutes late. . . or late for your job and you might not even have a job, ”he said.
Construction of the Birmingham Xpress is expected to be completed in early 2022, ahead of the World Games which will begin on July 7 of the same year.
The additional funding for Birmingham Xpress will come from the $ 140 million in federal dollars the city received as part of the US bailout.
The issue of additional funding came after considerable debate at last week’s meeting. It was originally brought up on August 17, at a city council plenary committee meeting, when Shaw provided an update on the project.
During this presentation, Shaw asked for $ 14 million from the council and said the current state of the construction industry is a “perfect storm”, with costs “rising dramatically.” She and her team cut costs by around $ 3 million by removing parts of the project like priority signage, which synchronizes traffic lights according to the location of the bus to increase reliability and reduce downtime. waiting for bus users.
Removing priority signage would render the project meaningless, Councilor Hunter Williams said.
“I think it’s important that we don’t spend all this money to just create another bus service,” he said. “I think we have to be really intentional that this is really a bus rapid transit service.”
Initial plans for the Birmingham Xpress were estimated at $ 44 million, so the additional $ 14 million offered by Shaw would bring the total cost to $ 58 million. Priority signage costs so little at $ 1.1 million compared to the total cost of the project that it makes no sense to remove it until instead of the $ 14 million proposed by Shaw, Williams suggested to the board to ” increase funding to $ 15 million to accommodate priority signage. .
Hoyt agreed with Williams at the committee meeting, but said they should donate enough money, so planners don’t have to cut any aspect of Project Xpress.
“I really don’t think we need to take anything out of what we had for this project. I think we need to fund it in full because it says a lot about who we are as a city, ”Hoyt said.