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Interstate 22/U.S. 78 (Corridor 10)

The Appalachian Redevelopment "High Priority" Corridors

The Appalachian Redevelopment Council has assigned its own list of high priority corridors for states in the Appalachian Mountains region, from Mississippi northeast to New York. One of these corridors is Corridor X, better known as the route of U.S. 78 from Memphis, Tennessee, to Birmingham, Alabama. Since the number has been used in several news reports, it is fair to call this corridor Interstate 22.

Routing

Corridor X/U.S. 78 begins just southeast of Memphis, at the Tennessee/Mississippi state line, and is completed as a 4-lane freeway (though not necessarily Interstate grade) out to County Road 45 in Marion County, Alabama, via Tupelo. Tupelo marks the intersection of Corridor 10 and Corridor 11; Corridor 10 does not intersect with Corridor 7/Memphis-Atlanta Interstate.

Existing U.S. 78 from Hamilton to Birmingham in Alabama is mostly a poor-quality, two-to-four-lane road. The first construction of the new freeway in this section has been around Jasper, Alabama; however, plans are to build the freeway on top of the old road in some areas and to switch to a new alignment in other areas. The 1999 and 2000 National Geographic Road Atlases, as well as the latest Alabama Official State Map, show the future routing of the U.S. 78 Freeway.

In Birmingham, the Corridor 10 alignment will take traffic to a new connection with Interstate 65 north of the city center. This will avoid the congested section of U.S. 78 northwest of the city. In Memphis, the corridor will link to Mississippi State Route 304, which will connect to Interstate 55 south of Memphis and the Nonconnah Parkway. There are currently no plans to overlay Lamar Avenue (original U.S. 78) with a freeway between Memphis and Tennessee State Route 175/Capleville.

U.S. 78 in Tennessee and Mississippi

The U.S. 78/Corridor X freeway is fully completed in Mississippi, and has been since the mid-1990s. At the Memphis end, it is likely that the freeway will connect via the proposed Mississippi 304/Tennessee 385 Memphis Outer Loop to the proposed Interstate 69, the planned north-south freeway from Texas to Michigan. The proposed Mississippi State Route 304 and Nonconnah Parkway (Memphis Outer Beltway) freeways are also likely to connect to U.S. 78/Corridor X, Interstate 69, U.S. 72 (part of the Memphis to Atlanta Highway), Interstate 40, and Interstate 55. It is even possible that the outer beltway may someday carry the Interstate 69 designation.

According to Fred M. Tyner (January 8, 1998), U.S. 78 (Corridor "X") is practically Mississippi's fifth major Interstate. "Not only is it a freeway all the way across the state, it even has mile markers. (Could exit numbers be next?) The New Albany Bypass has a very narrow median (as the below picture points out), but otherwise all that's lacking is the Interstate shield. Of course, Alabama is working on its part (an Alabama official implied at a meeting that they are asked about the road often), but Tennessee seems to have little interest in building the 'missing link' in Memphis." (For more on this, see the Corridor 7 page). New MUTCD-compliant signage along U.S. 78 was installed along U.S. 78 by the end of 2000.

Andrew Vernon wrote in April 2002 that the Mississippi section of the highway now has milepost-numbered exits as well. While the standard black-on-white shield marks the way, a white-on-blue placard reading "Appalachian Highway" is mounted above it.

The U.S. 78 freeway, which currently begins at the Tennessee/Mississippi state line, will likely be extended north to Tennessee 175 in Capleville. It will then connect to the Memphis Outer Beltway (Mississippi 304/Interstate 669) near Byhalia.

Mississippi 302

Mississippi 302 is a state highway about two miles south of (and parallel to) the Tennessee state line. It is on both the National Geographic and Rand McNally atlases. It runs from U.S. 61 to U.S. 78. The Olive Branch By-Pass is completed and the highway will eventually extend straight across to U.S. 72.

Adam Froehlig provides this differentiation between Mississippi Routes 302, 304, and 309:

Mississippi 302 - This highway is in the National Highway System and is part of Mississippi's 1987 Highway Program, which means that those parts not already four or more lanes between U.S. 61 at Walls and U.S. 72 near Mount Pleasant are to be four-laned by completion. The widening of Mississippi 302 is complete between U.S. 51 and Mississippi 309, including the Olive Branch bypass. Most of the section between Interstate 55 and U.S. 78 is five-lane undivided, while east of U.S. 78 is four-lane divided, with an interchange at Germantown Road. There will be no freeway segments along Mississippi 302.

Mississippi 304 - This is a proposed freeway/outer beltway for the greater Memphis area. It starts at U.S. 61 near the Tunica/DeSoto County line and runs east, hitting Interstate 55 between Nesbit and Hernando, and catching U.S. 78 near the DeSoto/Marshall County line. At that point, it turns northeastery, then northerly, and continues into Tennessee southeast of Collierville. My understanding is that on the Tennessee side, the route will continue north, tying into the Nonconnah Parkway (Tennessee 385/Potential Interstate 669) near Collierville, and catching Interstate 40 at the "under construction" Interstate 40/Tennessee 385 interchange.

Mississippi 309 - Mississippi 309 is a north-south route that starts at Mississippi 4 in southwestern Marshall County, and continues north through Byhalia and to the Tennessee line south of Collierville. As far as I know, there will be no major upgrades to Mississippi 309.

Appalachian Highway

U.S. 78/Corridor X is signed as an "Appalachian Highway," using a blue rectangle combined with the standard black and white directional banner and shield. In the early days of the Interstate Highway System, Mississippi and Alabama proposed a Memphis to Birmingham Interstate highway. No number for this route was proposed; in fact, it may have been before the numbers were first assigned. However, the route was rejected, but now it seems like the Memphis-Birmingham freeway was only delayed for forty years. It seems likely that if an Interstate-quality link is built between the U.S. 78 freeway and the Interstate Highway System at Memphis, Mississippi and Alabama officials would probably petition for its addition to the Interstate System.

There is no feasible way that U.S. 78 in Tennessee can be upgraded to Interstate standards without tearing down many industrial plants. Hopefully, the upgrading of Mississippi State Route 304 (the joint Mississippi/Tennessee industrial corridor project) will indeed hook up with Nonconnah Parkway so this Interstate-standard road will end at another Interstate-standard road. For more on the Memphis Outer Beltway and the Nonconnah Parkway, go to the Corridor 18 page.

For more information on U.S. 78/Corridor X in Mississippi, please refer to Adam Froehlig's Mississippi U.S. 78 Page and his U.S. 78 Mississippi Exit List page.

U.S. 78 in Alabama

The U.S. 78/Corridor X Project, currently complete west of Hamilton and a short section near Jasper, is slated for completion or contract in Alabama within the next eight to ten years. According to Adam Froehlig, the construction of the corridor accelerated during the summer of 1999, with an anticipated completion by 2005 with additional federal funding (original plans called for a 2010 completion, revised to 2006 in 2001, and now 2005 in 2002). According to an article dated September 27, 2000 in the Birmingham News, "construction on the 94 miles in Alabama was speeded up two years ago to fulfill a campaign promise by Gov. Don Siegelman."

The governor fulfilled part of his pledge for completion when he opened a 14-mile segment between Hamilton to Winfield on July 2, 2001. Governor Siegelman said, "A completed Corridor X will provide a catalyst for attracting businesses with high-tech and high-quality jobs to Northwest Alabama. This route is critical if we are to attract the jobs that will keep our children working in-state and keep our families together." (For more, see Governor's Press Release on July 2, 2001 Corridor X Opening.)

The construction of Corridor X closest to Birmingham will result in the displacement of some 75-85 homes and a business. Many houses in the comdemned corridor located along Lois Street (at the far end of North Smithfield Manor) will have to leave by September 2002. Some houses that remain will be located right next to Corridor X in this neighborhood. Noise issues related to the highway will be mitigated because the corridor will be 100 or more feet deep, and the freeway will go underneath Interstate 65 near the subdivision.

The easternmost section of the U.S. 78 freeway in Birmingham will be six lanes, with a brief eight-lane section near its junction with Interstate 65 and the six-lane section extending west from the Birmingham metropolitan area to the existing U.S. 78 expressway.

Mark Stauter drove some of the then-new U.S. 78 freeway in Alabama in April 1998.

Last month I drove from central Florida to Missouri. While fighting the trucks and local traffic on old U.S. 78, I decided to check out the status of the "completed" portion (as shown on the Official Highway Map) of U.S. 78 between U.S. 43 south of Hamilton and Alabama State Route 44 between Twin and Brilliant. I know that eastbound there is an "end of freeway" apparatus at U.S. 43, although "local traffic" is allowed to get back on after exiting.

Of course I was westbound on this trip. At Winfield I took Alabama State Route 253 north to Twin, and then Alabama State Route 44 over to the construction area. While approaching the new U.S. 78 overpass, I saw a couple of passenger cars turn west onto the new highway. When I got there, there was a barrier that said "Road Closed." However, there was a gap in the barrier big enough for a passenger car, but maybe not a large truck. Not wanting to backtrack, and feeling like Cosmo Kramer on an empty tank of gas, I decided to climb aboard.

Apparently light vehicles are tolerated on this stretch, although it is not officially open. The road surface is not complete, consisting now of a kind of "pebbly" surface of crushed rock, on a concrete base. Bridges are still a little higher that the road surface, indicating another layer of pavement to come. The route is minimally signed, mostly warning of the bumps to be encountered at the bridges. After the interchange (U.S. 78 goes over) with [Marion County] Route 45, the road surface and signage improved. I did not drive 70 m.p.h. on the first section, but probably did average 55 or so.

Right now it's probably not worth the effort to take the new highway. However, the map shows construction eastward to Alabama State Route 129, and when that has been completed it would probably save time and exasperation to take the new highway.

Construction is certainly under way on the section between Carbon Hill and Jasper where the new highway will overlay the old, but don't look for completion any time soon. Supposedly part of the bypass around the south side of Jasper has been completed, but I saw no evidence of it. And, to be sure, the section closest to Birmingham (Forestdale) will plague my soul for years to come.

During the summer of 1999, Adam Froehlig reports that in Alabama, construction continued on sections in Marion and Walker Counties. The next most likely stretch of U.S. 78/Corridor X to open will be from U.S. 43 to Alabama 129. This section will open up once the final blacktop is laid, signage is finished, and Alabama 129 is four-laned between the new freeway and existing U.S. 78.

In April 2002, Andrew Vernon wrote that both of the completed Alabama sections of U.S. 78 have milepost-numbered exits, though not all have been numbered in Jasper. The state has given the open sections the designation Alabama 4, with U.S. 78 signed in some locations. Between Winfield and the Mississippi line, these signs follow the usual design for similar routes in Alabama, but are blue-on-white instead of black-on-white. In the blue sections around the state outline or shield, the words "Appalachian Development" and "Corridor X" appear.

In the Birmingham area, Corridor X will tie into Interstate 65 around Mile Marker 265 with a directional interchange, with a short connector extending to U.S. 31. Corridor X will connect with the proposed Birmingham Northern Beltline roughly halfway between Interstate 65 and existing U.S. 78 near Graysville. There is also funding for a feasibility study for possibly extending the corridor southeast to Interstate 20/59 near Birmingham International Airport. Adam Froehlig notes that for a "true Memphis-to-Atlanta" Interstate, this section should be built. It would save roughly five miles plus avoid congestion on both Interstate 20/59 and Interstate 65 near downtown Birmingham.

For more information, go to Adam Froehlig's U.S. 78 in Alabama Exit List page.

Interstate 22

The legislation designates Corridor 10 as a future interstate highway, but it does not provide for a specific designation. Politicians, news articles, and conjecture point to the route being designated as Interstate 22. It is likely that the next reauthorization of ISTEA in 2003 will have a designation for Corridor X written into law.

Four main items are being addressed in advance of U.S. 78 becoming part of the Interstate Highway System:

  1. Completion of the Alabama section of Corridor X.
  2. An Interstate-grade connection near Memphis between U.S. 78 and either Interstate 55, Interstate 40, or via Tennessee 385 to Interstate 240.
  3. Upgrading the shoulders and signage in Mississippi.
  4. Reconstruction or major upgrading through New Albany (and a possible waiver from "Interstate standards") -- note the narrow median in the picture above.

Page Updated March 9, 2003.