Drivers along Interstate 22 in Alabama, also known as Corridor X, celebrated the opening last week of the interchange just north of Birmingham which tied the last remaining section of that highway in Alabama to Interstate 65, officially completing Corridor X in the state.
Drivers looking for the completion of Corridor V, however, will have to wait a little while longer.
When work crews finish resurfacing and striping Hwy. 24 between the Dempsey community and Russellville in a few months, officials are expected to celebrate the completion of Alabama’s portion of Corridor V. That will not mark the end of the multi-decade project, however, as a roughly 8.5-mile stretch in Mississippi has not yet been started, and there is no timetable for construction to begin, either.
“Currently, the right-of-way for this expansion project has been acquired,” said Jason Scott, Public Information Officer with the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT). “However, there is currently no funding available to continue this project.”
The Red Bay News requested a rough estimate from MDOT on what it would cost to complete the project if it were able to be let now, but MDOT did not respond with that information.
If recent bids for sections of Hwy. 24 can be any guide, the completion of the Mississippi leg of Corridor V could cost between $30 and $40 million as an entirely new four-lanes of roadway will have to be constructed. In Alabama, officials were able to save some money as this side of the project only required the construction of an additional two lanes of highway, although the bypass around Red Bay to the state line did require four all-new lanes of roadway. That project, bid in 2005, covered the stretch from Hwy. 247 westward to the state line and cost $20.465 million to complete. About three miles of that project only required the construction of two additional lanes and covered 5.8 miles.
Another example is the most recent bid for the section of Hwy. 24 now under construction, from Dempsey to three miles west of Russellville, cost more than $18.5 million. That was for 8.9 miles of highway, which is approximately the same distance between where Miss. Hwy. 76 currently ends at Hwy. 23 in the Banner community and where it would connect with the section of four-laned Hwy. 25 south of the Fairview community.
Mississippi completed that segment, from Fairview to I-22/Hwy. 78, almost two decades ago but did not seek to progress toward Alabama until officials here made more progress on expanding Hwy. 24 and completing the the bypass around Red Bay. Mississippi put its money into completion of legs of the project between Tupelo and Oxford, rerouting Miss. Hwy. 6, to allow four-lane access all the way from Hwy. 45 in Tupelo to I-55 in Batesville.
Corridors V and X are projects developed through the Appalachian Development Highway System to help spur economic activity in the Appalachian region. Funds for transportation development are appropriated in Congress and then sent to the state highway departments for use on highway development. Typically those dollars aren’t directed from Congress on where they should be spent, but sometimes representatives can help steer money toward specific projects.
Efforts to reach Miss. Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Tupelo, for comment were not successful, though his office did respond to initial questions from The Red Bay News.
According to Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt, no funds have been set aside for transportation projects.
“While Congress is not currently earmarking transportation dollars in the Transportation Bill, as members of Congress we can work with our state departments of transportation to make sure they focus on highway projects like Corridor V,” Aderholt said.
Aderholt said his office would work with Rep. Kelly, who was just elected into his position last year, to seek funds to see the project through.
“Rep. Kelly was just elected a few months ago,” Aderholt said. “However, we have forged a close working relationship since his election. As this project is nearing completion in Alabama, I will be discussing with him ways that our two states can work together to continue the projress in order to benefit both our states.”