Travel

TideFans’ Guide to a Gameday Weekend:
Travel

by 4Q Basket Case
TideFans Moderator
*updated 7/30/2021*

If You Fly

If you’re planning on flying in, you’ll probably want to land in Birmingham and drive from there.  In normal traffic, the Birmingham Airport is about an hour from Tuscaloosa.  Atlanta is an option, but it’s about 3.5-4 hours each way, and you deal with the change in time zones.

Regardless of where you land, be sure to check ahead regarding detours.  There is still some road construction going on in Birmingham on I-59/20, on I-59/20 at Exit 77 just outside of Tuscaloosa and on Exit 73 – McFarland Boulevard.

Blessedly, the seemingly never-ending construction on Lurleen Wallace Boulevard in downtown Tuscaloosa is finished, as is the construction on I-59/20 at Exit 77.  The bridge over McFarland Boulevard (Exit 73) is also done, though there is some ongoing work on the exit ramp itself. 

Traffic on all fronts really does work better.  But it was a mess getting to this point.

If you fly in on Saturday, gameday traffic will definitely disrupt the normal time frame, so you need to allow at least a half-hour extra for that.

As I write this, there is no really disruptive construction going on.  But the Alabama DOT being what it is, check just to be sure.

Gameday Traffic

If you’re driving in on I-59/I-20, gameday traffic varies widely depending on a combination of quality of game, proximity of the opponent, and kickoff time.

Most people will be coming from or through Birmingham, so I’ll use that as the starting point.  I’m also assuming that you didn’t spend Friday night in Tuscaloosa, and are driving in on gameday.

Under normal circumstances, with no construction and no wrecks, it’s about 60-75 minutes from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa.

Football traffic adds time.  The closer to game time you’re hitting Birmingham, the heavier the traffic. Then there’s the construction and fallout from that…

Construction Work and Closure in Downtown Birmingham – CLEARED!

Through the 2019 season, there was nasty construction on I-20/59 in the heart of downtown Birmingham. According to ALDOT’s 59/20 Update website, “The project is expected to be completed by the end of the 2020 calendar year.

This is now cleared, and fully open, all lanes both ways.  Halleluiah! 

Tuscaloosa Construction – Interstate and Downtown

Closer to Tuscaloosa

  • I-59/20 PROJECT
    I-59/20 is widening to 3 lanes each way. Bridge work on two major viaducts (Exits 77 and 73) is done, though there is some ongoing work on the Exit 73 (McFarland) ramp.
    • On Exit 73, McFarland Boulevard, the bridge construction done.  There are three clear lanes the whole way, both ways, between I-459 in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa.

    • It’s going to be close on whether the work on the Exit 73 ramps will be finished by September, 2021.  When the ramps are finished, they’ll be two lanes, and flow should be better.  For now, it’s still one lane, but that’s no worse than it ever was.

    • As mentioned earlier, the major re-construction of Lurleen Wallace Boulevard is finally finished.  With a number of new turn lanes, traffic really does flow a lot better.

       

THE TRIP IN TO TUSCALOOSA – DRIVING THROUGH B’HAM
Plan to be driving through Birmingham at least 4 hours before game time, earlier if you want the full gameday experience in Tuscaloosa.  It’ll take 90 minutes to two hours to get to town, get parked and actually make your way onto campus.  Hitting Birmingham 4 hours prior will will give you no more than 90 – 120 minutes or so to enjoy gameday atmosphere, The Strip, etc., and about 30 minutes to get into the stadium and to your seat.

Caveat:  If it’s an 11:30am game, the inbound traffic flow gets compressed into a shorter time frame, and traffic from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa can start to build earlier.

The saving grace there is that, usually (but not always), the opponent for an 11:30am game is a non-conference directional school, and that cuts the crowd.  If it’s an SEC opponent at 11:30am, I do my gameday enjoyment after the game.

UA put out a press release on 8/7/19 detailing these projects around the city.

Suggested Route

For maximum enjoyment, plan to be in Tuscaloosa and on campus about 4 hours before game time.  If you get there closer to kickoff, you’re going to have to make some compromises on your schedule.

Take I-59/20 to the I-359 spur (Exit 71).  Take the 15th Street Exit to your right.  Then take the first left onto Greensboro Avenue .  Cross streets are numbered, and you’re moving down the number order – 14th Street, then 13th, 12th, 11th, then Paul Bryant (f/k/a 10th Street), etc.

Turn onto 7th Street, and continue a block or two to the Downtown Parking Deck.  Parking is free.  Turn left into the deck at the entrance between 23rd Avenue and 22nd Avenue.

If the deck is full, cruise around until you find something.  Might be a few blocks away, but this is a generally safe area, and is patrolled on game days.

Park & take shuttle to campus

Starting 3 hours before game time, there’s a shuttle to campus from the Downtown Parking deck – $1 each way.  You can ride it even if you don’t park at the deck.  Take shuttle to campus.  Or, if you’re early or just like to explore, the walk isn’t bad and takes you past some picturesque old Tuscaloosa neighborhoods along the way.

Other shuttles are available from on and off-campus parking.  This includes shuttles from parking areas near the Recreation Center and local shuttles from various spots around town including University Mall.  Check the UA Gameday Parking guide.

Return

Go back the way you came.  Yes, there will be heavy traffic.  But imperfect though it may be, this is the best way.

Whatever you do, do NOT use McFarland / Hwy 82 to get to I-59/20 after a game. 

It’s kind of complicated, and has to do with left hand turns, construction, merging lanes on ramps and people not knowing any other way.  Just believe me – you can use McFarland inbound, and to other destinations. You can use it outbound if it’s not game traffic.  But don’t go to the interstate after a game via McFarland.

New 2019 Alabama Driving Laws

Alabama has two new laws that will affect drivers driving in or through the state:

  1. ALL backseat riders must wear seatbelts
  2. Must drive in lane unless passing (the “anti-road-rage” Act)

***UPDATES***

7/30/2019 – Updated Tuscaloosa and Birmingham road construction info to note that most, but not all, of the major projects are now complete.

8/26/2019 – Updated Tuscaloosa and Birmingham road construction info.  Added link to driving laws changed in Alabama beginning 9/1/19.

4/20/2019 – Updated to include 10th Avenue project and press release by UA.

4/20/2019 – Updated to include additional details on I-59/20 construction in Birmingham and Lurleen Wallace Boulevard construction Tuscaloosa.