Gov. Robert Bentley and other leaders have broken ground on a 52-mile road that will someday complete a perimeter highway around Alabama's largest metropolitan area.
A ceremony was held Monday to mark the first phase of work on the Northern Beltline.
Bentley approved the first construction stage in the fall, but the project is expected to take more than 25 years to complete.
Environmental groups are suing to block a 52-mile highway that would complete a perimeter road around metro Birmingham.
The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the federal lawsuit Friday on behalf of Black Warrior Riverkeeper.
The suit contends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to follow the Clean Water Act and other laws when it approved permits for the first construction phase of the so-called Northern Beltline.