Thursday, July 26, 2012
I-22 work progressing
Traveling Highway 78 these days can be a pain.
I avoid it some, taking Highway 178 instead when going to Byhalia each Friday to visit with advertisers.
But then other times, I take it, because I want to keep up with the construction, as work crews stay busy with their goal of getting it up to interstate standards.
Highway 78 will eventually become I-22. Signs, in place on the route since 2004, declare it Future I-22. The work is back at a busy pace, particularly in our area.
Take your time these days driving 78 in Marshall and adjoining counties. In some stretches, as you travel eastbound or westbound, traffic goes to just one lane.
Be careful. The speed limit drops. Focus on your safety and the safety of those road crews doing the work.
Just a few weeks ago, we traveled Highway 78 to Birmingham, Ala., en route to Florida. It’s a nice ride, for the most part, with the “new road” coming up a few miles short of Birmingham and that dangerous, existing junction with I-65 and I-20/59.
Each time we drive into the area of the interchange, I tell Pam and my children about the “old days” of getting to Legion Field to see the Crimson Tide play. Traffic there was a nightmare.
And, it’s still a nightmare during rush hour (to and from work), I’m sure. A few years ago, Andy and I came back from the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament, and traveled through the interchange at the wrong time. It was slow-going for a good while – bumper to bumper – as we tried to get west on the old portion of 78.
But thank goodness, all who travel 78 regularly, from the Memphis, Tenn., area to Birmingham, Ala., can see light at the end of the tunnel.
And we can see the road work underway each day to get it up to interstate standards, make it safer for everyone and give towns along the way an economic boost.
Just think where we were when 78 was a two-lane. There’s still one of those signs in our South Reporter storage room – referring to it as “Death Highway.”
Just to update you as to work on the Alabama end of Highway 78 – a headline in the July 18 Journal Record (based in my hometown of Hamilton, Ala.) read – Interstate 22 link with I-65 set for October 2014.
Work is moving full speed ahead and remains on schedule, according to Alabama Department of Transportation officials.
The new interchange in Birmingham, an estimated $168 million project, represents only a 1.5-mile stretch. But despite the fact it is one of the shortest parts of the overall construction, the segment will include 14 ramps and 14 bridges. The project will include a four-level, 85-foot-tall interchange to link the two four-lane interstate highways.
I-22, when complete, will cover 213 miles from Memphis to Birmingham, connecting to other interstates on each end. I-22 will help form a freeway to connect downtown Atlanta with Birmingham, Memphis, Little Rock, Ark., and Oklahoma City, Okla. And the towns it will serve along the way include Potts Camp, Byhalia and Holly Springs.
The future interstate highway system, including I-269 already under construction in the northwest portion our county, means change. And change is a good thing, if we welcome it, embrace it and take advantage of it.
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