State Sen. Andrew Jones sees ‘the funding to finish’ major I-759 project with Rebuild Alabama passage
With passage of the Rebuild Alabama legislation, State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) already has a list of projects in mind that are important to his district.
Jones, who represents a district that includes Etowah, Cherokee and DeKalb Counties, said one of those projects is the I-759 extension in east Gadsden, a project that has been in the works for decades.
From Interstate 59 in west Gadsden, it is easy to access Interstate 759. But on the eastern side, trucks, travelers, commuters and commercial traffic wanting to access major routes U.S. 431 heading to Anniston or U.S. 278 to Hokes Bluff and Piedmont must exit onto a city thoroughfare and travel through Gadsden’s streets and neighborhoods to get to those major routes.
“I’m hopeful with the passage of this bill that we will have the funding to finish this,” Jones said. “My hope is that it can be completed in the next 15 years.”
ALDOT has for decades identified the need to extend I-759 from where it ends at George Wallace Drive to the intersection of U.S. Highway 431/U.S. 278, about a two-mile-long stretch. In 2017, ALDOT announced it will resume work on the extension, which included engineering studies and traffic studies. While some updated studies have been done, it has not advanced because funding is unavailable at this time, said Seth Burkett, ALDOT’s north region public information officer.
ALDOT had recently invested $250,000 for route planning and other recent studies.
Gadsden officials remain hopeful that the extension will happen.
“We really need the 759 extension. It’s for the people in the entire area, not just Gadsden,” said Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton. “It keeps heavy trucks and through traffic off of surface roads and will be safer and faster for everyone. We’ve been waiting a long time in line, and from all of our conversations with ALDOT, we hear that we are at the top of the list.”
When funding is secure, right-of-way acquisition will begin and utilities relocated. Officials expect it to improve traffic flow, lead to safer travel in the downtown Gadsden area, improve public safety and support future economic development.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a journalist whose contribution is made possible by a grant from the Alabama Alliance for Infrastructure