A field trip to the Alabama Department of Transportation.

On a rainy day last week, the kids and I hovered over to the Alabama Dept. of Transportation Fifth Division office, which serves Tuscaloosa and surrounding counties, to learn about what this agency does in our community. You won’t find the address through an internet search, but it is a large building open all week right off Skyland Boulevard next to the Driver’s License Bureau. You can’t miss it.

We were greeted with friendly smiles and a little surprise; I have a feeling this is not a popular location for little people out to learn (but we learned so much).

There is a large lake somewhere in Hurricane Creek Park. A great roamschool hunt for us this summer.

Mr. Carlton explained how the brown roads indicate roads to be removed and the bright blue roads indicate new roads to be built.

Mr. Carlton, who took time to answer Max’s many questions about transportation maps, explained how the maps are created and include land and lot ownership information so that ALDOT’s appraiser knows which land owners will eventually need to be contacted and offered financial compensation for their land, home, business, or neighborhood.

The red houses are slated for removal.

Mr. Carlton explained how houses slated for removal are first marked with various dots. In this case, a number of the houses in Holt were impacted by the tornado, which reduced their appraised property value. Max was curious about this:

“So you mean that some people who lost everything in the tornado are going to lose it all again? Man! I feel sorry for those people, especially the ones with kids.”

Empathy takes interesting forms when conversing with an 8-year-old boy. Or perhaps empathy always takes interesting forms in that we tend to empathize most with those who share our socioeconomic backgrounds and/or education. In Max’s case, he feels for “the kids”.

Soooooo many maps.

As Max chatted with Mr. Carlton, Micah and Milla explored the beautiful old cabinet of maps- a true historical treasure trove for anyone who wants to learn how Tuscaloosa has developed, both planned and unplanned, over the years.

And each map tells a different version of the same story- the story of our city and how it has grown.

If you live in Alabama and would like to schedule a roamschooling visit or field trip to the nearest ALDOT office, this Staff Directory might come in handy. You can learn more about the Eastern Bypass Project from the ALDOT website. Alternately, you can pay a visit to the map room in Tuscaloosa

On a different note, taxpayers have until April 16th to email their thoughts or concerns about the Eastern Bypass Plan to ALDOT. If you haven’t done so, then the hourglass is running out. Send an email to tuscaloosaeastbypass@dot.state.al.us.

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