Anniston–Oxford metropolitan area

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Coordinates: 33°38′N 85°50′W / 33.64°N 85.83°W / 33.64; -85.83

Anniston-Oxford Metropolitan Statistical Area
Core Cities Anniston
Oxford
Jacksonville
Counties Included Calhoun
Area
 - Total
 - Water

1,586 km² (612 mi²)
10   km² (4   mi²)
Population
 

112,249 (2000)
Time zone Central: UTC–6

The Anniston-Oxford Metropolitan Statistical Area is the most populated metropolitan area in Northeast Alabama next to Huntsville. At the 2000 census, it had a population of 112,249. However, the new decade started with the closing of the Fort McClellan US Army base, which formerly housed the Army's Chemical Warfare Headquarters, the Military Police Headquarters, the Women's Army Corp Headquarters and functioned as a basic training base. The base for nearly the entire 20th century was the area's largest employer. Anniston is struggling to rebuild. Oxford, with Interstate 20 running right through it, is booming with retail, restaurant and hospitality start-ups.

The other cities surrounding Anniston-Oxford are: Jacksonville, Piedmont, Ohatchee, Hobson City, and Weaver.

Counties[edit]

Alabama

Core Cities[edit]

Suburbs with more than 5,000 inhabitants[edit]

Suburbs with less than 5,000 inhabitants[edit]

Education[edit]

K-12 education[edit]

Public

Private

Institutions of higher education[edit]

Transportation[edit]

Main roadways[edit]

Interstate 20 runs though the southern portion of the county, connecting Atlanta with Birmingham. It is four lane controlled access. Plans to widen to six lanes from the Talladega Speedway to Golden Springs Rd (also known as the Eastern Bypass or the Leon Smith Parkway) are underway with the first portion scheduled to be complete by 2007. The entire project is scheduled for 2011 or 2013.

  • Noble Street runs through downtown, lined with office buildings, specialty shops, and restaurants. A major revitalization effort in 2003, made this street more pedestrian friendly. The old four lane thoroughfare was gutted, and turn of the 20th century trolley tracks were removed to help resurface the street. The road was converted to two lane traffic with wider sidewalks.
  • Quintard Avenue (Alabama State Route 21/US 431)runs parallel two blocks east of Noble Street. It serves as the main north/south traffic corridor for Anniston. The road is six lanes from East P street to 19th Street, and then four lanes. It connects central Oxford to the south and Jacksonville, Gadsden, and the McClellan area of Anniston to the north. Traffic is relatively heavy on this road around downtown and in Oxford as well. Since the early 90’s, bypasses have been planned on both sides of town to alleviate traffic. The North end becomes McClellan Blvd and heads toward Jacksonville via AL 21 (US 431 and AL 21 split just outside Lagarde Park, where traffic for Saks, Alexandria, and Gadsden can turn left onto US 431 and other traffic can continue toward Jacksonville and Piedmont).
  • The Western Bypass is a completed project of the Alabama Department of Transportation. It runs from I-20 in Oxford (the Coldwater exit) and runs north into the present AL 202. It is five lanes wide (handling Anniston Army Depot traffic). Future plans will extend it on the present County road 109 by widening it to connect with US 431.
  • The Eastern Bypass is a stalled project of the Alabama Department of Transportation to build a four-lane highway in Calhoun County. Also, it is the largest influx of federal money into the local economy since Fort McClellan closed. More than $21 million has been earmarked for this project. [1] (See Page 124 of Public Law 109-59-Aug. 10, 2005 as enacted by the US Congress). The bypass project may resume if residents of Calhoun County, Ala., agree to higher local taxes or road tolls or another funding mechanism. However, it may be indefinitely stalled because there are no longer any federal or state funds available for the ill-fated roadwork. The cited funding expires in 2009, and has already been spent.

According to The Wall Street Journal on July 28, 2008, Page A1:

"An unprecedented cutback in driving is slashing the funds available to rebuild the nation's aging highway system and expand mass-transit options, underscoring the economic impact of high gasoline prices. The resulting financial strain is touching off a political battle over government priorities in a new era of expensive oil."

Theoretically completed, the bypass would run from McIntosh Road (southeast Oxford) across I-20 following the Golden Springs Road and cross the Choccolocco Foothills. (A great deal of real estate development is in progress under private company banners in Choccolocco as of July 2008.) Then, it would cut back north of the US 431-SR 21 intersection, connecting to Alabama 21, also known as McClellan Blvd. For much less cost to the public, the project could have linked directly to US 431 and Alabama 21 at the former Fort McClellan north gate, Summerall Gate Road. That gate and the gate road are overgrown with weeds.

Summerall Gate Road is directly in line the US 431-SR 21 intersection. A regional newspaper company acquired land on that intersection from a McClellan, Ala. redevelopment team of local public officials. The newspaper built a new headquarters there. Coincidentally, the state allowed the newspaper to set up part of its educational foundation at the University of Alabama.

The Eastern Bypass is promoted as a way to redevelop the north edge of Anniston, which is named after the former Army base: McClellan. A small, remaining portion of Fort Mcclellan is maintained by the Alabama National Guard, and rumor has it, the northernmost section of the old base will become the new headquarters for the state national guard. Also under federal jurisdiction is FEMA's Center for Domestic Preparedness, the only civilian live chemical agent training center in the country. The CDP trains emergency responders for terrorist-related activities.

  • US 78 (known as Hamric Drive in central Oxford) handles a good bit of traffic as well. It runs parallel to Interstate 20 in Oxford.
  • Pelham Road (Alabama State Route 21) runs through Jacksonville and is a main road for commercial and retail traffic as well as college student commuting to Jacksonville State University.

Air[edit]

The Anniston Metropolitan Airport is a general aviation facility, south of the city proper, in Oxford. Its single asphalt runway is 7,000 feet long and 150 feet wide. Birmingham International Airport in Birmingham is 57 miles west serving commercial flight, as well as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (IATA: ATLICAO: KATL), the world's busiest airport as measured by passenger traffic and by aircraft traffic, provides air service between Atlanta many national and international destinations.

Train[edit]

Amtrak's Crescent train connects Anniston with the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham and New Orleans. The Amtrak station is situated at the Southern Railway Depot (which was built in 1926), located at 126 West 4th Street. The city purchased the station in 2001 for $430,000 from federal grants for the restoration, in hopes of turning the building into a multi modal transportation hub for the city. It will serve by Amtrak (train), Greyhound (bus), and local taxi and bus services if goes as planned.

Economy[edit]

The military has played the biggest part in the economy in Anniston since the turn of the 20th century. The Anniston Army Depot which is used for the maintenance of most Army tracked vehicles (the M-1 Abrhams tank) remains in use. The depot houses a major chemical weapons storage facility, the Anniston Chemical Activity, and the previously-mentioned program to destroy those weapons, the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility.

Fort McClellan, formerly site of the U.S. Army Military Police Training Academy and Chemical Warfare training center, was de-commissioned in the 1998. A commission of local city and county leaders known as the Joint Powers Authority deals with the redevelopment of the old fort. Plans for a research park, retail development, and new homes light the hopes of some, hoping it will spur more growth in the north Anniston region.

A portion of the former fort is now home to the Alabama National Guard Training Center. Another 9000 acres (36 km²) of the fort were set aside for the Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge in 2003. The Department of Homeland Security also uses a portion of the decommissioned fort for training and fieldwork.

Top employers[edit]

Other employers with ties to county commerce[edit]

Media[edit]

Newspapers[edit]

AM Radio[edit]

  • WAAX 570 AM: News/Talk 570 WAAX
  • WCKS 810 AM classic country
  • WPID 1280 AM AC-oldies
  • WHMA 1390 AM gospel
  • WDNG 1450 AM talk
  • WFZX 1490 AM sports talk
  • WVOK 1580 AM oldies

FM Radio[edit]

  • WJCK 88.3 FM religious
  • WGRW 90.7 FM religious
  • WTBJ 91.3 FM religious
  • WLJS-FM 91.9 FM college/alternative/NPR
  • WTDR-FM 92.7 FM (Talladega, broadcasts from Oxford) country
  • WHMA-FM 95.5 FM country
  • WVOK-FM 97.9 FM hot AC
  • WGMZ-FM 93.1 FM Z93: Classic Hits

Television[edit]

Note: Anniston-Oxford is part of the Birmingham Television Market.

Culture[edit]

Anniston long has served as a cultural center for northeastern Alabama. The Alabama Shakespeare Festival has its root here when it was founded in Anniston, back in 1972, before moving to Montgomery in 1985. Jacksonville State University holds many performances such as plays and operas throughout the year. The Knox Concert Series regularly brings world-renowned musical and dance productions to the area. Anniston is also home to the Anniston Museum of Natural History and the Berman Museum of World History. Other cultural notes is the Music at McClellan series, which is part of a project with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra at the former Fort McClellan, the perform outdoor concerts in the early summer.

The Anniston has many examples of Victorian-style homes, some of which have been restored or preserved. Many others have been destroyed or are in dilapidated conditions. Several of the city’s churches are architecturally significant or historic, including the Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Grace Episcopal Church, and Parker Memorial Baptist Church. Temple Beth EL, dedicated in 1893, has the oldest building in the state continuously and currently being used for Jewish worship. The Coldwater cover bridge sits at Oxford Lake Park, it was saved from demolition back in the early 90’s.

After decades of decay, Noble Street, is seeing a rebirth as a downtown shopping and dining district in the heart of downtown. There are several large shopping centers in the area as well, such as the Quintard Mall and the Oxford Exchange, both located in Oxford.

The Anniston-Oxford area is home to many restaurants ranging from American, Italian, Greek, Cuban, Cajun, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Southern cuisines. Many locally own dining establishments are located in the downtown Anniston, Buckner Circle, and around Jacksonville Square, as well as major chain restaurants along the interstate in Oxford.

Jacksonville is a center for the college activity in Northeast Alabama, as well as bar life. Brother's Bar, hosted Allman Bros. (unannounced) performances in the 1970s and is still a popular venue for local musicians. Many restaurant style bars are scattered around the square vicinity of Jacksonville. Jacksonville State has touring national acts on occasion.

Chemical Contamination[edit]

The most significant news about the region came in a CBS 60 Minutes investigation [2] that revealed Anniston to be among the most toxic cities in the country. The source of local contamination was a Monsanto chemical factory. The current lead-in on CBS' website states:

"Imagine a place so saturated with toxic, cancer-causing chemicals that it's in the dirt people walk on, the air they breathe - even the blood that pumps through their veins.

The 24,000 people living in Anniston, Ala., don't have to imagine this. Many of them are living it. In fact, they have been living it for decades - they just didn't know it. The company responsible didn't tell them, and neither did the Environmental Protection Agency."

Monsanto Corporation isn't the only source of chemicals in the area, though it is the only source of proven contamination. After the closure of Fort McClellan and the revelation of contamination, the federal government built an incinerator in Anniston to burn large stockpiles of chemical munitions including nerve gas and mustard gas. These chemical weapons were stored for decades by the US Army for potential use in warfare. Anniston is one of nine areas in the US that housed such stockpiles. Destruction of most of the munitions has gone without a hitch, and is expected to be completed during the next decade. However, the documented contamination left by the Monsanto factory will last lifetimes.

This fact belies the natural beauty of Anniston-Oxford's location at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain chain. As the southernmost length of the Appalacian Mountains, the world's oldest mountain range, it is home to diverse species of birds, reptiles and mammals. Part of the former Fort McClellan is now operating as Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge.

Famous people from Anniston/Oxford[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]