Interstate 20 in Alabama

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This article is about the section of Interstate 20 in Alabama. For the entire length of the highway, see Interstate 20.

Interstate 20 marker

Interstate 20
Route information
Maintained by ALDOT
Length: 213 mi (343 km)
Major junctions
West end: I-20 / I-59 at the Mississippi border near Cuba
  I‑359 / SR-69 in Tuscaloosa
US-82 in Tuscaloosa
I‑459 near Bessemer and in Irondale
I‑65 in Birmingham
I‑59 in Birmingham
US-431 / SR-21 in Oxford
East end: I‑20 at the Georgia line
Highway system
  • Alabama State Routes
SR-19 SR-20

In Alabama, Interstate 20 travels 214.7 miles[1] through the center of the state. It enters the state from Mississippi near York, and travels northeastward through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. At Birmingham, I-20 turns eastward and heads through Anniston and Oxford before crossing the Georgia state line near Lebanon.

For more than half its 130-mile (210 km) distance, I-20 overlaps Interstate 59 from the Mississippi border to eastern Birmingham near Birmingham International Airport. Mileage and exits on the concurrency are I-59's,[citation needed] although both routes have the same mileage for the Alabama duplex.

Route description[edit]

Western Alabama[edit]

After Interstate 20/59 enters Alabama from Mississippi, they travel concurrently northeastward across the Tombigbee River and Black Warrior River delta country which is generally low lying farmland until reaching Tuscaloosa. This area contains low population. US Highway 11 parallels this route from Mississippi northeastward while it passes through small towns like York, Livingston, and Eutaw before reaching Tuscaloosa.

At Tuscaloosa, the route connects with the spur interstate Interstate 359 which travels northward into downtown Tuscaloosa and to the University of Alabama.

From the Mississippi/Alabama state line to Tuscaloosa, Interstate 20/59 is a four lane route. While passing Tuscaloosa, the route briefly becomes six lanes but once again becomes four lanes east of exit 73.

From Tuscaloosa to Birmingham, the route continues on an east/northeast heading traveling through rolling forested terrain until reaching Interstate 459 southwest of Bessemer. Most of this stretch is now a six-lane freeway and construction continues to widen the route just northeast of Tuscaloosa to six-lane capacity. This stretch also hosts the Mercedes auto plant which is a large employer of residents primarily from Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, and Bibb counties. Interstate 459 travels east and then northeast around the southern periphery of the Birmingham area before re-connecting first with Interstate 20 near Irondale and then terminating at Interstate 59 near Trussville. The Birmingham Northern Beltline Corridor X-1 which is slated to become Interstate 422 is to connect to I-20/59 at the Interstate 459 interchange, however project is still years away from completion.

Interstate 20 (co-signed with Interstate 59) approaching Interstate 65 in downtown Birmingham. This is sometimes referred as Malfunction Junction.

Birmingham[edit]

After passing the Interstate 459 interchange, the route continues northeast through the Birmingham suburbs of Bessemer, Fairfield, and Hueytown and entering Birmingham near the Ensley community. The route continues east/northeast through downtown before reaching the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport where I-59 continues northeast toward Gadsden and Interstate 20 turns eastward toward Atlanta. Most of this stretch is through urban areas including passing near the U.S. Steel plant near Fairfield. Near Fairfield and visible from the Interstate looking north and northwest are several smokestacks which is all that remain of several large steelmills that used to dominate the Ensley community of Birmingham.

As Interstate 20/59 travels eastward just past the Arkadelphia Road exit in the East Thomas community, the highway rises to the top of East Thomas hill giving eastbound travelers an excellent view of the downtown Birmingham skyline just before reaching the interchange with Interstate 65. This interchange is known locally as "Malfunction Junction" due to the fact that the eastbound and westbound lanes briefly cross each other and the route has exit ramps for Interstate 65 on both sides of the road which can cause confusion and accidents.

As Interstate 20/59 leaves the downtown area, the route has an interchange with the Elton Stephens Expressway, also known locally as the Red Mountain Expressway, which travels south across the downtown area and into the southern Birmingham suburbs.

Once Interstate 20 turns away from Interstate 59, it begins an eastbound journey toward Georgia. The first two miles are a four-lane bridge of east Birmingham neighborhoods before reaching the shopping areas formerly known as Eastwood Mall and Century Plaza Mall. Eastwood Mall at its opening was the largest shopping mall in the Southeast while Century Plaza Mall was the first two level shopping mall in Birmingham. Eastwood Mall was razed in 2006 and in its places exists a Wal-Mart Supercenter and other retailers. Century Plaza closed in June 2009 and the future of the site is still in question.

Interstate 20 is a six-lane freeway from exit 132 to exit 147. This route travels through rolling suburban country and crosses Interstate 459 near Irondale.

"Bloody 20"[edit]

East of exit 147, Interstate 20 once again becomes a four-lane route until mile marker 155. This eight-mile stretch is arguably the most dangerous stretch of interstate highway in Alabama. The terrain is significantly hilly as the route passing across the northeast to southwest ridges of the Appalachian Mountains. There are two significant uphill grades in each direction which slows down truck traffic. The posted speed limit in this eight-mile stretch is 55 mph. However, due to the heavy volume of truck traffic combined with speeding car traffic, accidents are frequent and sometimes deadly. This part of Interstate 20 is sometimes called "Bloody 20". There are plans by ALDOT to widen this stretch to six lanes and according to The Birmingham News on July 31, 2009, bids were placed to widen the eight miles of mountainous terrain. A concrete median has already been installed in this stretch, but once construction began to widen the road, closings and delays are common as significant blasting of rock formations are required (blasting zone). This project finally began in 2012. US 78 can be used as a detour during times of accidents between exit 147 and exit 153 but US 78 travels concurrently with Interstate 20 between exits 153 and 156 and no parallel alternate route is available in this hilly area.

Eastern Alabama[edit]

East of mile marker 155, the route once again becomes six lanes until reaching the Coosa River bridge near Riverside. This bridge is scheduled to be replaced when the stretch between the Coosa River and mile marker 172 is widened to 6 lanes from 4 lanes. However, no timetable for this project has been announced. Exits 165 and 168 serve the Honda Motor Company which has a plant at Lincoln. Exits 168 and 173 serve the Talladega Superspeedway which hosts two NASCAR racing weeks each year. The terrain east of mile marker 155 until reaching mile marker 191 is the relatively flat Coosa River valley.

East of mile marker 172 until mile marker 178, the route is once again six lanes and east of mile marker 178 until mile marker 182 construction to widen the route to six lanes is underway with completion was to be scheduled before the end of 2009. This project extended into 2012, however, and extended another mile, shortened to two lanes due to the road work until it reaches Anniston. East of this area, Interstate 20 remains a 4-lane route until it reaches the Georgia state line (mile marker 215). The Anniston/Oxford area is served by exits 179, 185, 188, and 191.

Just east of exit 191 exists a significant uphill/downhill grade (uphill eastbound/downhill westbound) that is approximately two miles in length. Once again truck traffic is significantly slowed by this hill and causes occasional traffic backups. East of this incline, the route travels through generally rural forested rolling country until reaching the Georgia state line.

East of Birmingham, US 78 serves as the parallel US Highway.

History[edit]

Between Leeds and Riverside in the early 1960s. Between the Jefferson/Tuscaloosa county line and Tuscaloosa (exit 73) in the mid-1960s. Between Arkadelphia Road and Ensley Avenue (Birmingham) in the late 1960s. A short segment from the Mississippi/Alabama border to Cuba, Alabama.

Early 1970s: between exit 73 and Epes, Alabama. between Riverside (exit 162) and Lincoln (exit 168), then to Anniston/Oxford (exit 185). Between Arkadelphia Road and downtown Birmingham. Between Ensley Avenue and Valley Road in Fairfield.

Mid-1970s: From 17th Street downtown Birmingham to US78 in Irondale. From Valley Road in Fairfield to 18th Street in Bessemer. From exit 185 to exit 199 at Heflin, Alabama.

Late 1970s and early 1980s: From Exit 199 to Exit 205 (Heflin, Alabama)....however, the remainder of the route eastbound to the Georgia line was complete but waited for Georgia to complete the section from Douglasville westward to the Alabama line before it could be opened.

From US 78 in Irondale to Leeds. From Epes, Alabama to Livingston, Alabama and then from Livingston to Cuba, Alabama.

By the mid-1980s the entire route was complete and open to traffic. Interstate 20 has no three-digit spur routes in Alabama, although at one time there was discussion of a spur northward from Oxford into Anniston which would also serve as a connection to the U.S. Army base at Fort McClellan as well as to Gadsden. But the closing of the base as well as a lack of population between Anniston and Gadsden ended any thought of such a route.

In Alabama's 1962 Democratic Primary Run-off, George Wallace carried every county except one: Jefferson County, the most populous in the state. Wallace vowed to prevent a cent of state highway funding to complete Interstate 20's Jefferson County segment, a promise he fulfilled, thus hastening Atlanta's rise to pre-eminence among Southern cities.

Exit list[edit]

County Location Mile km Exit Destinations Notes
Sumter   I-20 west / I-59 south – Meridian Continuation into Mississippi
  1 To US-80 east – Cuba, Demopolis
  8 SR-17 – York
  17 SR-28 – Livingston, Boyd
  23 CR-20 – Gainesville, Epes
Greene   32 Boligee
  40 SR-14 – Aliceville, Eutaw
  45 Union
  52 US-11 / US-43 – Knoxville
Tuscaloosa   62 Fosters
Tuscaloosa 68 Northport Tuscaloosa Western Bypass
71 I‑359 north / SR-69 – Tuscaloosa, Moundville Signed as exits 71A (south) and 71B (north), I-359 exit 0
73 US-82 (McFarland Boulevard)
76 US-11 – Cottondale, East Tuscaloosa
77 Cottondale
  79 US-11 / SR-7 – Coaling, Cottondale
  86 Brookwood, Vance
  89 Mercedes Drive
  97 US-11 south / SR-5 south – West Blocton, Centreville South end of US-11 / SR-5 overlap
  100 Abernant, Bucksville Unsigned eastern terminus for SR-216
Jefferson   104 Rock Mountain Lake McAshan Drive
  106 I‑459 – Gadsden, Montgomery, Atlanta I-459 exit 0
Bessemer 108 US-11 north / SR-5 north (Academy Drive) North end of US-11 / SR-5 overlap
110 Alabama Adventure Parkway
112 18th Street, 19th Street
113 18th Avenue
115 Allison–Bonnet Memorial Drive, Jaybird Road
Fairfield 118 Valley Road – Fairfield
Birmingham 119 Lloyd Nolan Parkway Signed as exit 119A southbound
119B Avenue I Southbound exit and northbound entrance
120 SR-269 (20th Street) / Ensley Avenue
121 Bush Boulevard Southbound exit and northbound entrance
123 US-78 (Arkadelphia Road) – Jasper
124 I‑65 – Montgomery, Huntsville Signed as exits 124A (south) and 124B (north)
125A 17th Street – Downtown Birmingham Northbound exit and southbound entrance
125B 22nd Street – Downtown Birmingham Signed as exit 125 southbound
126A US-31 (11th Avenue North) / US-280 east / Carraway Boulevard – Civic Center
126B 31st Street North
128 SR-79 (Tallapoosa Street)
129 Airport Boulevard
Jefferson Birmingham 130A I‑59 north – Gadsden Eastern end of I-59 overlap
130B US-11 (1st Avenue North, SR-7) / 1st Avenue South Signed as exits 130A (south) and 130B (north) eastbound
132A To US-78 (SR-4) / Oporto-Madrid Boulevard Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
132B To US-78 (SR-4) / Montevallo Road Signed as exit 132 westbound
Irondale 133 To US-78 (SR-4) / Kilgore Memorial Drive
135 To US-78 (SR-4) / Old Leeds Road
136 I‑459 – Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Gadsden I-459 exit 29
Leeds 140 US-78 – Leeds
St. Clair 144 US-411 (SR-25) – Leeds, Moody, Odenville Signed as exits 144A (south) and 144B (north)
Moody 147 Brompton
  152 Cook Springs
  153 US-78 west (SR-4 west) – Chula Vista Western end of US-78/SR-4 overlap
Pell City 156 US-78 east (SR-4 east) – Eden, Pell City, Odenville Eastern end of US-78/SR-4 overlap
158 US-231 (SR-53) – Ashville, Pell City
Riverside 162 US-78 (SR-4) – Riverside, Pell City
Coosa River
(Logan Martin Lake)
Bridge over the Coosa River
Talladega Lincoln 165 Embry, Lincoln
168 SR-77 – Talladega, Lincoln
  173 Eastaboga
Oxford 179 SR-202 – Munford, Coldwater
Calhoun 185 SR-21 – Oxford, Anniston
Anniston 188 To US-78 (US-431, SR-1, SR-4) – Oxford, Anniston
  191 US-431 (SR-1) to US-78 (SR-4)
Cleburne   199 SR-9 – Heflin, Hollis
  205 SR-46 – Ranburne
Tallapoosa River Bridge over the Tallapoosa River
  210 Ranburne, Muscadine
  I‑20 east – Atlanta Continuation into Georgia
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

References[edit]

  1. ^ FHWA Route Log and Finder List U.S. Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration (2002). Accessed May 3, 2007.

External links[edit]

Route map: Google / Bing


Interstate 20
Previous state:
Mississippi
Alabama Next state:
Georgia