One of the hot-stove topics making its way around Alabama is the possibility of a new east-west Interstate highway through the center of Alabama.
The proposal is what people are calling “Interstate 14,” which would run parallel with U.S. Highway 80, crossing into Alabama from the east in Phenix City and passing by Tuskegee, Montgomery, Selma, Demopolis and exiting Alabama to the west on the way to Meridian, Miss.
There are already parts of it in place along U.S. Highway 80, near Phenix City and Montgomery. But the idea is that it could supplement Interstate 20 to the north by offering an alternate route that would avoid congestion in Atlanta and Birmingham and connect Columbus, Ga. to the Interstate highway system beyond the existing I-185 spur.
Earlier this month, Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba cried foul over the current proposal, which has the route passing Dothan to the north by 100 miles.
“We feel like we have been cut out for many decades, it has hurt us, we have grown a great city but we need an interstate this way before those in the middle of the state do,” Saliba said of the I-14 proposal in an interview with Alabama Media Group.
It’s hard to see where an east-west Interstate highway through the Wiregrass would go. If such a route were proposed, it would probably follow U.S. Highway 84. But in 2018, is there any demand for a new route connecting Dothan, Enterprise, Elba, Opp, Andalusia, Evergreen, Monroeville and Grove Hill beyond what is already in place?
That’s why the route the Wiregrass needs is a north-south route.
If anyone has ever made a trip from Alabama to the Florida beaches between Apalachicola and Fort Walton Beach, at any point along the way, perhaps making your way through one of the various one-light speed traps along U.S. Highways 231 or 331, you thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to be on an Interstate highway right now?”
The proposal gaining traction is an Interstate spur connecting Dothan and/or Enterprise to Interstate 10 32 miles to the south in Florida. Interstate 10 is a major east-west thoroughfare that starts in Jacksonville, Fla. and ends in Los Angeles.
“One of the things they’re pitching is that this has already been planned out, the money has already been spent, and that needs to be our strategy with the I-10 connector,” Enterprise City Councilman Turner Townsend said to The Enterprise Ledger’s Leah Lancaster in an interview published on Tuesday. There was a study done and there was a route ticked out. I think we need to (stay with) the I-10 connector, because practically speaking I don’t see them putting an east/west interstate through Enterprise.”
Even if you can get beyond the endless bureaucracy and favoritism politics of the Alabama Department of Transportation and its 50-year backlog of highway projects, the next problem to overcome with such a proposal would be getting cooperation from the Florida Department of Transportation.
If you consider the transportation needs in Florida include the metropolises of Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, etc., elected leaders in southeastern Alabama probably should have started yesterday working with Florida officials in the Panhandle if they want to see an I-10 connector in their lifetimes.
Unfortunately for the bigger cities in the Wiregrass, they’re a victim of geography. To many of our statewide political leaders, places like Dothan, Enterprise, Ozark, Elba, Opp, and Andalusia are so far removed from the Montgomery-Birmingham-Huntsville corridor that they might as well be in Florida.
Even with some very favorable circumstances in the Congress that made funding available, it took nearly 40 years for Corridor X (now Interstate 22) that connects Memphis and Birmingham to be completed.
The takeaway of that is the Mississippi portion was completed decades before the Alabama portion. If that’s a model for what people in the Wiregrass should expect from ALDOT, promote the project early and promote it often if you want such a route completed before the automobile is obsolete.
@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.