Thursday, August 26, 2010
Linking 22 and 65
Many already call it an interstate. Technically, it’s not.
Our four-lane road through Marshall County is still Highway 78. But as the signs along the route signify, it is Future I-22.
And according to reports coming out of Alabama, construction has begun in Birmingham on the final link that should officially make it an interstate.
The Journal-Record in Hamilton, Ala., reported in its August 4 edition that construction crews were scheduled to be on site by August 2 to begin the monumental task of linking Interstates 22 and 65 in Birmingham – and officially linking Alabama’s largest city to Marshall County’s neighbor, Memphis, Tenn.
It’s the final section of a road that has required more than 30 years to complete.
The projected completion date is four years away – October 2014. Highway officials in Alabama have publicly expressed optimism the project could be finished as much as one year ahead of schedule, according to the story written by Tracy Estes.
But it won’t be easy.
The link in Birmingham between these two interstates will involve some 14 ramps and 14 bridges over the span of only 1.5 miles. The $168.6 million project will result in a four-level interchange, which will reach 85 feet in height.
Construction crews will also tunnel a passage under the existing I-65 route to what is now being referred to as I-22 to pass beneath the existing interstate.
The massive interchange will be built, according to the Journal-Record news story, just north of what is known as “Malfunction Junction” in Birmingham – the convergence of Interstate 65 and Interstates 20 and 59.
Another project will be built simultaneously to link the Interstate 22 corridor with U.S. Highway 31 just to the east of I-65.
Included in the interchange project, deemed the most costly project in Alabama history, will be the addition of lanes along I-65 to accommodate the increased traffic flow. Currently, there are three north and southbound lanes in the area for a total of six lanes. This amount will be increased by one in each direction with a new total of eight lanes.
The interchange has been designed to allow traffic to exit or enter either I-65 or I-22 without slowing down, in hopes of limiting the number of traffic accidents.
Work on the interchange will be performed in three or four different stages to prevent traffic congestion.
We went through Birmingham a few weeks back en route to Atlanta. The trip is much easier, even now, thanks to new four-lane, Highway 78 (Future I-22) taking you almost to Birmingham.
The Journal-Record calls the scheduled completion of I-22 “an economic dream” come true. Marion County, Ala., like Marshall County, Miss., and every other community along I-22, are looking to take advantage of the route and attract new industry.
Particularly, right now, they’re going after spin-off industries that might supply parts to Toyota in Blue Springs, scheduled to open next year.
Interstate 22 is another feather in our county’s cap. And you can throw in Chickasaw Trail, Future I-269 and other big projects. All combined, the future looks bright for economic growth right here at home.
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