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The 1960s US 78 bypass of Tupelo

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Last night, I got curious about the pre-freeway US bypass of Tupelo, so I did some research and posted about it in a closed Facebook group. That led to more revelations and more questions, so let's see what people here have to say about it.

First, a useable bypass of Tupelo was in place by 1966, as shown in this 1972 aerial photo. The portion west of US 45 Gloster Street had been in place as a four-lane dual highway with several median breaks since at least 1955. There was a short section of full freeway, with the bridges built in 1962, as far as Green Street. East of there to Main Street-US 78 was a super two on the eventual northbound US 45-westbound US 78-MS 178 roadway. The bridges on the former super two are noticeably narrower than their eventual eastbound-southbound counterparts, which were built in 1975.

Adding to the mix is this 1955 aerial, which shows a sweeping wye intersection at US 45 and US 78 as the precursor of the eventual two-loop parclo. In addition to the sweeping legs of the wye, note the stubs for an eastern extension of the bypass. The current bridge carrying Gloster Street-MS 145-former US 45 over the bypass wasn't built until 1967, and the next bridge to the west, not until 1965, so converting this highway to a semi-freeway was definitely an afterthought.

My bud Russell also helpfully produced this aerial from Mississippi Highways of the highway extending westward west of Gloster Street. I'm gonna say that the first three median cuts are the ones that are still there today, while the two visible in the distance were wiped out by the construction of the Country Club Road interchange in 1965. In the distance is the bridge carrying the Natchez Trace Parkway over the highway, which was built in 1959.

Perplexingly, though, the near end of the photo is very different from what's shown in the 1955 aerial. It appears that 500-600 feet of the concrete highway have disappeared, replaced by an asphalt neckdown onto the eastbound roadway. Something's going on here, and I don't understand what it is.

If you check out the 1972 aerial at the other end that can't be seen in your attached photo, it shows the same abrupt end of the concrete where the road transitioned back to the 2-lane configuration.

My conclusion is that they built the 4-lane portion as concrete and the segments on both sides of it were not concrete pavement.

Youíve answered a question Iíve wondered about for decades. Iím 61 now and remember running old 78 back and forth as a teenager through much of the 1970ís from Jasper Al to Rolla Mo as my brother was living in Missouri at the time. If I remember this started in the Fall of 1972(I was 12) and my brother moved back to Alabama in 1979.

From what I remember much of old 78 coming into Tupelo from the east was still concrete. It was not until 1974-75, I think before you had the small ďbypassĒ, which is now US 45 to where you didnít have to go down Main Street, the turn to the right on Gloster Avenue at the railroad tracks.

My Father who was still alive at the time could remember much of the old original 78 built in the 1930ís which only had one paved concrete lane, with gravel shoulders where if you met a car it was two wheels off the concrete and two wheels on!

It took a good solid 4 hours to go from Jasper to Memphis. One thing I can remember was Tupelo seemed to be about half way. If we traveled to Missouri in the Fall or Winter, if we left our home around 3 pm, it would get dark at Tupelo. The picture you show, at the end where it goes back into two lanes, where I-22 goes over 178, it was dark. I can remember old 78 going down a hill and way in the distance seeing tail lights of trucks. It was a long hard drive for my Dad from Tupelo to Memphis on a dangerous highway which was old 78.

Thank you for helping me rekindle this memory. If you have any more pictures of old 78 in Mississippi Iíd love to see them.


--- Quote from: rcm195 on May 03, 2021, 11:48:16 PM ---Youíve answered a question Iíve wondered about for decades... Thank you for helping me rekindle this memory. If you have any more pictures of old 78 in Mississippi Iíd love to see them.

--- End quote ---

No more pics, but I'm glad you found it elucidating.

I wonder when plans for an all four-lane Highway 78 came together.


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