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U.S. 72 (Corridor 7)

Routing

The entire route of U.S. 72 from Memphis east to Chattanooga and Atlanta via a northern and southern fork is slated for upgrading to Interstate standards. The corridor would fork at Scottsboro, Alabama. The legislation refers to Corridor 7 as the "East-West Corridor," and it is the main designation for the proposed "Atlanta-Memphis Interstate." It is also referred to as Corridor V between Memphis and Chattanooga; the southern fork of the corridor from Scottsboro to Cartersville and Atlanta is not included as an ARC Corridor.

Corridor 7 (ARC Corridor V) is already Interstate-standard along Interstate 565 between Decatur and Huntsville. Plans are to extend a high-capacity corridor northeast to Interstate 24 west of Chattanooga that is not constructed to Interstate or freeway standards initially.

The Atlanta-Memphis Interstate

The "Atlanta to Memphis Interstate" via Huntsville refers to Corridor 7/ARC Corridor V, and it has been planned since the late 1970s, along with the Birmingham-to-Memphis Freeway (Corridor X). According to Fred M. Tyner, there were as many as three different routes being considered in 1998. One proposal gaining favor is routing the highway south of the Tennessee River, allowing traffic to bypass Huntsville.

The U.S. 72/Memphis-Atlanta Interstate proposal was debated during the ISTEA Hearings of 1991 in Congress. Huntsville citizens noticed that their city is "missed" by Interstate 65, and proposed an east-west Interstate to pass through the city. Their proposal was an Interstate highway from Memphis to Huntsville. At Huntsville, the Interstate route would split -- one leg going to Atlanta (via the Southern Fork of Corridor 7) and the other to Chattanooga (via the Northern Fork of Corridor 7).

The Memphis-Atlanta Interstate via Huntsville along Corridor 7 is still forefront in politicians' concerns. In an article dated April 20, 2001 from The Huntsville Times, concern over the prioritization of various projects in Alabama, including the newly proposed Western Alabama North-South Interstate, has led to politicians to assure residents that the Corridor 7 Memphis to Atlanta Interstate project is still ongoing.

With the start of a $4.8 million feasibility study for the western Alabama north-south highway, U.S. Representative Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville and U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, insisted that the corridor study shouldn't interfere with ongoing planning and construction of the Memphis-to-Atlanta Interstate. Per the Huntsville Times, Cramer said his top transportation priorities remain the Memphis-Huntsville-Atlanta highway and the Decatur beltline. Shelby, who also has advocated extending Interstate 85 from Montgomery into Mississippi, listed the west Alabama freeway as a top priority.

Mississippi

Corinth and Mississippi Highway Department officials seemed more interested in having quick improvements than in waiting a few more years for a freeway, so the widening proceeded as originally planned -- parallel road construction with minimum access control. Mississippi officials at that time even questioned the wisdom of building an Interstate highway with a brand new four-lane highway in the same corridor. In June 2000, a 17-mile segment was opened in Benton and Tippah Counties, creating a consistent four-lane highway from the Alabama State Line west to three miles prior to the Tennessee State Line.

Billy Riddle tells me that the newer portions of U.S. 72 in Mississippi are well constructed. They have reflectors galore, and the newest sections appear to have better road signs than what MDOT has used in the past. The median is very wide. The westbound lanes appear to follow the old alignment in Marshall and Benton Counties, but in Tippah and Alcorn Counties, the eastbound lanes appear to be the old road, with a couple of short old road bypasses at Walnut and somewhere near the Hatchie River. I have only one complaint about Mississippi four-lane non-Interstate highways in general: they lack paved shoulders! They have graded earth shoulders that can easily take a layer of asphalt without any additional grading, but it's not done! At best, they will put a one-foot strip of asphalt to the right of the right edge line, and that's about it. All Interstates have proper shoulders, but non-Interstates don't. I believe the newest section of U.S. 78 near Holly Springs, however, has tar-and-gravel shoulders, which is still better than dirt, but it would be nice to see one made of asphalt so they can more easily cut out rumble strips.

From the U.S. 72/Tennessee 57 split in Collierville, Tennessee, to about three or four miles into Mississippi, it's still a two lane road where no construction has begun. After driving in Mississippi for three or four miles, it becomes four lanes. In Marshall County, it appears as if the road's been finished for about a year. From the Marshall/Benton County line to Mississippi 5, it appears as if the new road was very recently finished ... in fact, one portion had not had it's final coat of asphalt laid down yet, but all lanes were still open. From east of Mississippi 5 to just west of the Walnut city limits, it's still under construction, but Billy Riddle predicts it will be finished in another year. In the town of Walnut, once again, it appears as if I had arrived about a week or two after the completion of the road. Here, you will find the only stoplight on U.S. 72 between Collierville and Corinth (and it's probably Walnut's very first stoplight). Once east of Walnut, U.S. 72 is four-lane divided all the way to Corinth.

Billy Riddle tells me that U.S. 72 within the Corinth city limits appears to have been four- to five-lane, undivided highway for quite a while now. East of Corinth, U.S. 72 has been four-lane divided since about 1994, with a really nice concrete section between Burnsville and the Alabama state line. It also has an interchange for Mississippi 365 in Burnsville and one for Mississippi 25 in Iuka.

West of Corinth (excluding the three miles closest to the Tennessee State Line nearest Memphis), the widening of U.S. 72 to four lanes through Benton and Tippah Counties is complete, per a "Yahoo for 72" press release issued by Mississippi DOT. Thanks to Chris Lawrence for this information.

U.S. 72 is planned as a four-lane expressway between Nonconnah Parkway/Tennessee State Route 385 and Mississippi 302. More information on Tennessee 385 is on the Interstate 69/Corridors 18/20 page.

Alabama

U.S. 72 is fully four-lanes (on both urban and rural stretches) in Alabama. Construction of an Interstate 565/U.S. 72 interchange in Huntsville is also planned to begin soon. At Scottsboro, Corridor 7 splits into two forks. The northern fork follows Corridor V northeast toward Interstate 24 near Chattanooga. The southern fork is not an ARC Corridor, and it follows Alabama 3 and Alabama 9 into Georgia.

Much of the 166-mile Corridor V in Alabama has been constructed to ARC Corridor expressway standards, excepting 26 miles as of December 2001. The most recent segment was opened on September 20, 2001, when a 20-mile section of Corridor V was opened to traffic between Russellville and Muck City near Moulton.

Georgia

The Southern Fork of Corridor 7 continues southeast via Georgia 20 and U.S. 411 to meet Interstate 75 near Cartersville, Georgia. This would complete the proposed Interstate-compatible link from Memphis-Atlanta.

Page Updated January 31, 2003.