U.S. 78 is slowly being upgraded from a two-lane highway to a modern Interstate-like freeway between Memphis and Birmingham. Mississippi has completed its freeway sections, while Alabama is still working to complete the freeway between AL 129 at Winfield (approximately 30 miles east of the Mississippi state line) and Birmingham. These sections are expected to be completed and open to traffic sometime in 2008, with some subsections opening sooner.
The latest section to open was approximately 2 miles of the route south of Jasper, along with a 3 mile non-freeway connecting spur to existing US 78, on 3 March 2002. An additional section from AL 129 to AL 13 may open some time in 2005.
The highway is commonly referred to as “Corridor X”; this is the Appalachian Regional Commission's designation for the portion of the freeway between MS 25 at Fulton, Miss. and Birmingham. More recently, parts of the corridor have been designated as the National Highway System's High Priority Corridors 10 and 45. Further details can be found on Andy Field's High Priority Corridor 10 and Future Interstate 22 pages. Completing the route to current Interstate standards will require:
In July 2003, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved the Transportation/Treasury appropriations bill for the 2004 fiscal year, which included the Interstate 22 designation; the Senate Appropriations Committee followed suit in September. For more details, see this account in the Birmingham Business Journal, a more recent story in the Memphis Business Journal, or the legislation itself (both the House and Senate versions).
On January 23, 2004, President Bush signed the consolidated appropriations bill for FY2004 into law; this legislation included the Interstate 22 designation for the U.S. 78 corridor from Memphis to Birmingham. As a result, signs identifying the route as the Future I-22 Corridor may be placed by ALDOT and MDOT, and the actual I-22 designation may be signed along the entire route upon the freeway's completion to I-65 in Birmingham in 2008.
It is unclear how new portions of the route to open in the meantime will be signed; this largely depends on how the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) division offices for Alabama and Mississippi interpret the law. However, if FHWA follows the precedent used in North Carolina for parts of the I-26 and I-73/74 corridors, they will probably permit the signage of “Future I-22” along the existing route.
Photo gallery: U.S. 78 in Alabama and Mississippi. Also, Brian Baggett has a gallery of more recent photos of U.S. 78 construction in Alabama.
See also: Adam Froehlig's exit guides for U.S. 78 in Alabama and Mississippi.
In addition to these projects, Tennessee plans some improvements to U.S. 78 in southeast Memphis from the Raines Road/Perkins Road interchange southeast to the Mississippi state line, including new interchanges at Holmes Road and Shelby Drive (TN 175). However, the improvements would not bring U.S. 78 in Tennessee up to Interstate highway standards without additional work.
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