Northern Beltline Construction

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.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley says construction of the Northern Beltline is expected to begin in 2014.

Bentley said Tuesday that after construction starts, the first portion of the project is expected to take between five and six years. Officials say the first phase of the project is a 1.34 mile stretch between Alabama Highway 75 and Highway 79 in northwest Jefferson County.

The Northern Beltline is a 52-mile highway that extends from Interstate 59 in Jefferson County to the Interstate 459 junction with Interstate 20/59 in southwest Jefferson County.