State leaders, along with officials from Washington D.C. and around Jefferson County, cut the ribbon Monday on the interchange between Interstate 22 and Interstate 65, completing a long-awaited highway between Birmingham and Memphis.
“The potential market has now expanded and vast new opportunities are now before us,” says Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens.
Proposals for a limited-access highway between those two cities go back to the 1930s and was known as Corridor X. Construction on the Alabama portion of I-22 began in 1984. It cost more than a billion dollars with the final interchange costing $158 million. Economic development officials say the completed interstate will be a key tool to recruit and grow businesses.
“I know it’s been a long time in the making,” says Alabama Congressman Robert Aderholt. “I think you’re going to see the dividends for jobs in northwest Alabama.”
The finished highway is also a welcomed change for residents.
“This is the first time that I’ve ever been so excited about the opening of a road,” says Ellen Brake, who lives with her husband Benny near the highway northwest of Birmingham. They say it’ll make for easier travel to the city for the doctor or other appointments.
“It makes the area we live in less isolated,” says Benny Brake.
The interchange was originally supposed to open in October 2014. Contractor Archer Western was fined $2,000 a day for the delay.
With reporting from WBHM intern La’Nissi Brown