Interstate 59 (I-59) and Interstate 65 (I-65) have been selected as Alabama’s top two transportation infrastructure projects of the 20th century by the Washington, D.C.-based American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).
The selections were revealed recently at an event hosted by the Alabama Road Builders Association (ARBA). ARTBA presented awards to ARBA President Lee Gross and Alabama Department of Transportation Director Paul Bowlin and Chief Engineer Ray Bass.
ARTBA conducted a national survey to help identify the top two transportation infrastructure projects of the past century in all 50 states. The survey was sent to members of Congress, the nation’s governors, state transportation department heads, newspaper editors, state and local chambers of commerce executives and college history professors.
I-59 was recognized because of its importance to the Alabama economy and for providing unparalleled mobility to the state’s motorists.
Alabama’s I-59 provides the state a second outlet to the sea — in addition to Mobile — for its products as well as connections with the Upper South and the Northeast. Entering the state from Chattanooga, TN, it intersects with I-65 and I-20 in Birmingham and serves Tuscaloosa before leaving and heading south, eventually ending near New Orleans and its port.
I-59 covers 241 mi. (388 km), sharing 116 mi. (187 km) of that distance with I-20. Daily traffic usage in 2000 — the most recent data available — averaged 46,400 vehicles in Tuscaloosa and 162,950 vehicles in Birmingham.
I-65 is Alabama’s longest Interstate highway. It begins at the state’s important Gulf of Mexico port at Mobile and runs for 363 mi. (584 km) to the northern border with Tennessee. Along the way, I-65 serves major cities, the state capital of Montgomery, the industrial center Birmingham and the military-technology complex at Huntsville.
With its northern terminus on Lake Michigan at Chicago, I-65 is vital to transporting Alabama’s commerce through the center of the country. In 2000, the heavily traveled roadway recorded average daily usage of 69,800 vehicles in Mobile, 71,170 in Montgomery and 144,490 in Birmingham.