Monday, June 20, 2016

Historic Highway

The last leg of the Appalachian Highway opened today. It's now called I-22 and runs from
Birmingham to Memphis. It's big news here because it took just under 40 years to complete.

Funding for the project started in the mid-1970s, and the work began in Memphis in 1978.  Workers finished up in Tennessee first, and then in Mississippi several years ago, but Alabama focused funding on the beltway around Birmingham. The Appalachian Highway simmered on the back burner.

Alabama work began about 10 years ago but the state apparently ran out of money. The last mile and a half included several bridges and overpasses connecting I-22 with I-65 in North Birmingham. This mean it would take years and cost more than the annual gross national product of say Panama.

A few years ago work began on the overpasses and it seemed to talk forever. Finally, at the first of this year, they started painting, putting up signs, and other finishing touches.

A month or so word spread like a juicy rumor that the highway would open today, on the summer solstice.

This morning I had to take our friend Denise to her hotel where she will be doing some promotional work for Elizabeth Arden Makeup company this evening and tomorrow. As we approached the end of I-22, I had hoped the road would be open, but apparently they were awaiting the arrival of the governor, so we had to get off.

After I dropped her off and headed back to work, I got a news flash on my phone that the ribbon had officially been cut.

I put on my blinker and took the exit toward Memphis. I wasn't the first, but I was among the first few hundred travelers to inaugurate this historic stretch of road. I did a video clip on my phone to keep for posterity.

10 comments:

  1. 40 years! It probably needs repair in places.

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  2. Yes, we drove to Memphis in March for Jilda's birthday and there are places that are a mess., but the part near our house is in good shape.
    R

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  3. 40 years? Good grief! Ill admit, I chuckled reading the "waiting on the governer" part. I can just imagine your face as you once again had to detour.
    Lisa

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  4. Nice to be a part of history. I hadn't heard of that Appalachian Highway, but it should be a good thing. Hopefully alleviating some traffic for folks. I can remember driving on I71 here in Ohio when it first opened many years ago. It was amazing to drive for miles without seeing a car on the road. Not so any more. Most days it's back to back traffic in many areas.

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  5. We lived in Kansas in the 90's, and I remember the work being done on the road from Memphis through Mississippi as we traveled to South Alabama. I believe it was highway 78 then. Glad they finally finished :-) Sheila

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  6. Wow 40 years, that's crazy... I am glad it is done ... xox

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  7. 40 years!! Wow!!! Happy it's finished!

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  8. There are so many roads in our country in need of repair, along with bridges.

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  9. One wonders why it takes so long to do things like this 40 years is a bloody long time

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