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Author Topic: Birmingham road meet trip report  (Read 1670 times)

hbelkins

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Birmingham road meet trip report
« on: October 10, 2016, 12:57:23 AM »

Days 1-2

My goal for the trip was to do some route clinching and fill in some annoying holes in my map of visited counties. I took a bit of a circuitous route to Birmingham instead of one of the obvious routes (I-75, I-24, I-59; or Bluegrass Parkway, I-65.).

I left work Wednesday and drove to Corydon, Ind., about 20 miles west of Louisville on I-64.

Kentucky appears to have gotten the memo on the recission of Clearview's approval. I noted a sign on I-64 approaching KY 53 that had been replaced since I was last through there in January. It's not Clearview.

This was my first time through downtown Louisville since work started on the new bridge and the remake of Spaghetti Junction. I've been critical of that project for a number of reasons, and it appears that the scope of it was even more outlandish than I had thought. The project actually starts at the US 42/US 60 (Story and Mellwood Avenue) exits. They were getting ready to open up some of the ramps and lanes on the refurbished old bridge the next day. There's a gray plate on the sign on the ramp from I-64/I-71 to I-65 north. I presume it says "TOLL ROAD" or "TOLL BRIDGE" beneath the cover.

Indiana has a paving project underway west of New Albany. A crew was working as the sun went down with police watching over.

Corydon has grown quite a bit the past few years. I stayed at the Super 8, which appears to be fairly new. There are quite a few newer restaurants and shopping areas near the exit. It's a good place to stay if you're heading west on I-64 and don't want to deal with Louisville morning traffic.

I got up Thursday morning with a goal of making it to Jackson, Tenn., by sundown. Took I-64 west to IN 37, then followed it and IN 237 south into Kentucky at Hawesville. The bridge is being painted and the button copy signs on the bridge are gone. Don't know if they will be re-erected or replaced.

Took US 60 on to Owensboro, driving the bypass eastern extension for the first time. That's a total waste of money. Not sure why it was necessary. Noted that the end of US 431 at the bypass has now been marked with an END sign and turned around to get a photo for Dale Sanderson's US Ends site. Then followed the Audubon Parkway to Henderson. The "Future I-69 Spur" signs have been removed going west, and as best as I could tell, also going east.

Drove what is now US 41 north to the Henderson strip to check out the new signs that were replaced because of the I-69 conversion, but didn't cross the river. Kentucky's photolog reveals that the old Indiana button copy advance overhead for I-164 has been replaced (probably when that route was resigned as I-69) so I didn't go up to check them out.

Drove through the redesigned WK/Pennyrile interchange several times. As best as I could tell, most of the through traffic follows the old parkways (E-W and N-S, without a lot of "thru"I-69 traffic). They're working to convert the KY 813 Mortons Gap interchange from a folded diamond to a normal diamond. After gassing up at the Pilot there, I took KY 813 over to US 41 to US 62, back to the Pennyrile and headed south. It seemed to me that the Pennyrile gets more truck traffic than any other Kentucky parkway. There were quite a few big rigs on the road.

I exited at the northern Hopkinsville bypass and went around to US 68/KY 80, and enjoyed the 65 mph speed limit on most of that road. There is construction to widen the route near Cadiz, but a decent length of old route remains prior to the Lake Barkley bridge.

The work to build the new Barkley crossing is proceeding pretty well. And, of course, the new Kentucky Lake crossing is finished. After I crossed, I followed US 68 to KY 402 to US 58 to Mayfield. This is the old routing of KY 80. The new four-lane KY 80 takes a more southerly course, providing better access to Murray on US 641 south. At Mayfield I used the relocated KY 121, which serves as an eastern and northern bypass of downtown, to connect to the Purchase Parkway. There's major work underway to rebuild the interchange where the US 45 bypass and the Purchase split. The connector to US 45 is closed.

At the state line, I followed US 45E south. Tennessee has this annoying habit of building four-lane roads and then slapping 40 and 45 mph speed limits on them. US 45E is four lanes all the way south to where it rejoins its western twin and there are several segments where the route is not a full 55 mph road.

At the split, I took the ramp and headed north on 45W, which is the through movement as you're going north. However, it's not four lanes all the way. There's a significant two-lane portion south of Union City. Going north at Humboldt, the route splits into a business route that isn't fully signed as Business US 45W, and what is sporadically signed as By-Pass US 45W. This made me wonder if the old route through town might not be needed to certify a clinch of the route, so I ended up back in Humboldt on the trip.

At Union City, 45W makes a number of turns to arrive at US 51 northeast of town. It also passes through at least one traffic light camera (another Tennessee annoyance). I backtracked along 45W and TN 431 (which appears to be the old route of TN 22) and then circled around town on US 51. I drove out TN 22/TN 5 and saw the overpass for what will be I-69's bypass of the bypass of Union City, then came back and headed north on TN 21, looking for more construction. There was none to be seen, so what's been built to date doesn't extend all the way to TN 21.

I crossed into Kentucky, did a little meandering around the state line, then found my way to KY 125, and headed south into Tennessee onto what became TN 5, then it was back to Union City.

From there, I took US 51 south and noted construction south of town where the I-69 freeway will pass over US 51. It's supposed to tie in somewhere around the beginning/ending of the freeway portion, but I didn't see any work ongoing there. US 51 is still signed as Future I-69 Corridor.

At Dyersburg, I took US 412 east, a route I'd driven before. But I didn't take it all the way to Jackson. Since I wasn't sure about the clinch of US 45W in Humboldt, I took US 70A/US 79 over, then used their bypass to get to the spot where US 45W's business and bypass routes intersect. Then I drove through town and found the route to be marked as South Business 45W and South 45W. But I ended up leaving no doubt. It was dark when I got to Humboldt so I headed on to Jackson for the night.
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froggie

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Re: Birmingham road meet trip report
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2016, 07:55:13 AM »

Quote
Took US 60 on to Owensboro, driving the bypass eastern extension for the first time. That's a total waste of money. Not sure why it was necessary.

I was there 2 years ago while the bypass extension was still under construction.  Traffic wasn't horrible, but it does provide a more direct connection between the 231 river bridge and the bypass and adjoining parkways.  Also avoids several traffic signals and the annoying intersection turn at the old bypass end (at what is now the KY 144/KY 603 intersection).
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hbelkins

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Re: Birmingham road meet trip report
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2016, 04:26:46 PM »

Day 3

Many of us who make visiting counties a hobby probably have a few annoying holes in our mob-rule.com maps. The bulk of my day was spent trying to fill in three of those holes in northwestern Alabama.

Starting out in Jackson, Tenn., I needed to drive US 45 through downtown and pick up two sections of the route between there and the Tennessee line to clinch it in the Volunteer State. I was staying out on the US 45 bypass, south of I-40, so I ended up driving around on the bypass to the southern end (which has a rather convoluted intersection with US 70; if you're going north you turn right and then loop around and make a left instead of directly making a left turn) and then backtracking through town up to the split into E and W branches to photograph what it was too dark to get the night before. Then it was back through town.

Got gas for $2.069 (including a three-cent loyalty discount) at Kroger and then naturally found it for $2.019 at a couple of stations south of downtown Jackson.

Picked up the section of US 45 I needed between TN 18 and TN 100 and proceeded to Selmer. I think I've mentioned my dislike for automated enforcement. Selmer has both speed and traffic light cameras. Double boo.

Headed south on US 45 to the state line, clinching that route and both its branches in Tennessee. I'm not sure how far the US 45 four-lane run into Mississippi, but however far it goes, there's a four-lane corridor all the way north to Paducah via US 45, US 45E, the Purchase Parkway and US 45 again.

Immediately after entering Mississippi, I exited onto MS 2, which becomes TN 22 at the state line, and followed it to US 64. Then I had to backtrack across US 64 for nearly two hours, reversing a trip I'd made a few years ago, to pick up US 43 south to clinch it in Tennessee.

Most of US 64 is four lanes, but there's a small portion that's under construction. One surprise was finding the southern extension and new terminus of US 641. I knew the route had been extended south of I-40, but I didn't realize it went all the way to US 64. The route it uses to head north of US 64 seems to have been improved with brand new pavement and new rock cuts.

The US 64 bypass of Lawrenceburg is done, and it runs to the south of the old road. That meant I had to drive north on US 43 into town and then turn around. It appears to me that a US 43 bypass is badly needed, as the road was jam-packed.

The four-lane runs out at the Alabama state line, but construction is underway to widen it to connect to the existing four-lane portion. I noted that the companion Alabama state route (AL 13) was signed at the state line along with US 43, which isn't the case for several other US route state line crossings.

Florence/Muscle Shoals is a cluster foxtrot. Lots of twists and turns to stay on US 43, and congested out the wazoo. I was very happy to get past the US 72/Alternate US 72  intersection, where the road opened up.

Lauderdale County was the first of the three counties I needed; Franklin and Pickens were the other two. Franklin was easy, but Pickens was the most time-consuming. I took US 43 south to Fayette, then AL 18 and AL 96 to AL 17, which I followed to Reform, and then US 82 east toward Tuscaloosa.

One odd thing I noticed was that about two miles or so before entering a town, there were signs saying "POLICE JURISDICTION." Does Alabama allow (or restrict, as the case may be) city police to a certain area outside the city limits?

I had planned my route to avoid downtown Tuscaloosa via Google Maps, so I was looking for a road labeled Mitt Lary Road to take over to I-20/I-59. I didn't see any roads signed with that name, and it didn't show up on my GPS. I did see a number of signs pointing to a shortcut to the interstates via a toll bridge. Getting closer to Tuscaloosa, I needed to make a pit stop. Found gas for $1.859 (cheapest of the trip) and then did some research. What Google Maps labels Mitt Lary Road is signed as Boone (road/avenue/something) and leads to something called the Tuscaloosa Bypass or Joe Mallisham Parkway, with a toll bridge over the Black Warrior River that cost $1.50 to cross, and with its own special transponder.

I'd been on the interstates before, but in the opposite direction, but was pleased to find some button copy around the I-359 and US 82 interchanges. A widening project is in place to complete the three-laning of the interstate between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. There was a wreck in the opposite direction that had traffic tied up for several miles.

I wanted to clinch I-459 so I exited onto the bypass. Traffic was a nightmare. There were several pockets of congestion between the western end and I-65. East of I-65, it was a nightmare. There was a huge jam of traffic trying to exit onto I-20 east, and that, coupled with some micropassing trucks on the hills, made for a mess. Going the opposite direction, it was an even bigger mess. Traffic was pretty much stopped all the way back to Liberty Parkway, and I-65 south appeared to be a parking lot.

Heading back in to town on I-59 wasn't bad, but traffic was at a standstill trying to exit onto I-20 east at their split.

I zipped out new I-22 to Coalburg Road to clinch that route and then made my way to my hotel which was adjacent to the meet-up point at Target.

Accomplishments for the day: Clinched US 45 and US 43 in Tennessee, clinched I-459, clinched I-22 and picked up three new counties in Alabama.
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Brandon

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Re: Birmingham road meet trip report
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2016, 05:49:06 PM »

Days 1-2
Drove through the redesigned WK/Pennyrile interchange several times. As best as I could tell, most of the through traffic follows the old parkways (E-W and N-S, without a lot of "thru"I-69 traffic).

I noticed that as well.  A lot of vehicles seemed confused by the new interchange as well.  Kind of makes the I-69 stuff look a little silly.  IMHO, the Pennyrile should've been a part of an I-61, and the Western Kentucky a part of an I-56; oh well.
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froggie

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Re: Birmingham road meet trip report
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2016, 07:22:15 PM »

Quote
Headed south on US 45 to the state line, clinching that route and both its branches in Tennessee. I'm not sure how far the US 45 four-lane run into Mississippi, but however far it goes, there's a four-lane corridor all the way north to Paducah via US 45, US 45E, the Purchase Parkway and US 45 again.

If you go via US 45A, all the way to the Alabama line towards Mobile.  Eventually (by 2020ish), it will the the same along mainline US 45.

To my knowledge, Alabama has no plans to fully 4-lane their segment of US 45.

Quote
One surprise was finding the southern extension and new terminus of US 641. I knew the route had been extended south of I-40, but I didn't realize it went all the way to US 64. The route it uses to head north of US 64 seems to have been improved with brand new pavement and new rock cuts.

Part of the requirement for the extension.  AASHTO policy mandates that new US routes and US route extensions must be substantially (if not completely) up to modern standards.  This is another reason why it is unlikely that AASHTO would approve any possible moving of US 78 back to its old route in Mississippi...because the old route (currently MS 178) is largely not up to standards.
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hbelkins

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Re: Birmingham road meet trip report
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2016, 01:23:48 PM »

Part of the requirement for the extension.  AASHTO policy mandates that new US routes and US route extensions must be substantially (if not completely) up to modern standards.

They sure blew that with approval of the extension of US 321 in Tennessee, in particular the portion between Pigeon Forge and Townsend (Wears Valley Road). That road wasn't even state-maintained when it became a US route.
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hbelkins

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Re: Birmingham road meet trip report
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2016, 01:51:49 PM »

Days 4-5

Since the meet tour had entered Shelby County, AL, one of my goals for the day had been knocked off the day prior.

My main goal was to complete US 411 and also to clinch US 321 in Tennessee. I only grabbed two off-the-route counties, one of them being a real PITA but I needed it to fill a hole in my map.

To get to US 411, I took I-459 north from my hotel to I-20 east, then exited at US 78 and headed for Leeds. I'm not sure why US 411 has the routing it does in Leeds. Instead of following Ashville Road all the way to US 78, it turns onto 9th Street.

Beyond the commercial district of Moody around the I-20 interchange, US 411 is a pleasant drive with not too many slowdowns, not even in Gadsden. One thing of note is that US 411 does not have its state ride-along route, AL 25, signed other than at the US 78 intersection at 411's terminus.

I took a short detour once I got into Georgia to grab Polk County on GA 100, then returned to US 411 and headed toward Rome. Just before the US 27 intersection, US 411 passes under a four-lane road with no interchange. I presume that's Loop GA 1.

Rome has an interesting southern freeway bypass and a spur into town. I needed to pick up Chattooga County so I went north on US 27, and that little excursion was a pain. The county line was a good bit north of downtown Rome, and the commercial district was a major slowdown early on a Sunday afternoon. But I got to Chattooga County and then turned around and made my way back to US 411, which is four lanes all the way to I-75. The split of US 41 south and US 411 north is being reconstructed.

At the I-75 interchange, one gas station was selling gas for 20 cents less than the other two on the west side of the exit. Glad I noticed that. I had originally stopped at one of the more expensive ones but opted to go over to the cheaper station to save some money.

At that point, I had completely clinched the entire distance of US 411. My next goal was to get to Madisonville, Tenn., to try to get a picture of the old TN 68 "TENN" triangle sign. I ran a couple of distance calculations and found that taking US 411, although much shorter than I-75, was only 1 minute longer. Given my dislike for interstate traffic and knowing how a wreck can tie up I-75 for hours, I opted to stay on 411.

North of US 64/74, 411 is four lanes all the way to Maryville, but there are a lot of annoying spots where the speed limit is not a full 55 mph.

Exited 411 in Madisonville and went downtown in search of the old TN 68 sign, but it was gone. There's been a streetscape project there and when new sidewalks and street lights were installed, the old sign was removed.

Next, I was out to clinch US 321 in Tennessee. I'd previously driven everything from Townsend north through Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Newport, Greeneville, Johnson City and Elizabethton and then south (where it changes directions) to the North Carolina state line. To get to Townsend, I took US 411 north to TN 72 east, which I followed to US 129 south and then the Foothills Parkway. That route is under construction beyond US 321 and there are some spots approaching Townsend where you can see bridges and rock cuts on the hillsides. I drove to Townsend then turned around and headed back west, passing through Maryville.

It appears that a new bridge is being built to replace the one at Loudoun Dam. In typical Tennessee fashion, there is no signage at the US 11 intersection and very poor signage where the route crosses US 70.

When I got to I-40, I noticed that traffic eastbound was at a standstill. Heard talk of a wreck when I went into the Love's truck stop there.

The first sign for TN 95 north of I-40 is for a secondary route, although it's signed as a primary route everywhere else up to the TN 58 interchange.

My goal for the night was to get to Somerset, Ky., and although Google Maps said the fastest way was to take the interstates to London, Ky., I didn't want to do that because I didn't want to get stuck in Jellico Mountain traffic with all the Kentuckians and Buckeyes heading north from a weekend in the Smokies. So to get to US 27, I took TN 327 to TN 61, which I followed south for a few miles to US 27. US 27 is being widened to four lanes for a few miles north of that interchange.

I noted an interesting bit of construction engineering on that route. Instead of making wide mountain cuts to accommodate the road, the cuts are narrower and steeper, with retaining walls being installed. Probably saves on right-of-way and excavation costs.

I'd driven US 27 before, and darkness was falling as I approached the TN 62 intersection. I drove the rest of the way to Somerset in the dark.

Not really a whole lot to report on the next day, Somerset to home. A portion of the new KY 30 construction in Owsley County is open to traffic with a base surface. It's possible the rest of the new alignment between Travellers Rest and Levi will be open by the end of the year, with final surface to come next spring.

Accomplishments for the day: Clinched US 411 in its entirety, clinched US 321 in Tennessee, clinched the open portions of Foothills Parkway, one new county in Alabama and three new counties in Georgia.
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