According to a report in The Birmingham News, highway officials say "Corridor X," as it is known, will be finished by 2006.
Officials are also studying the possibility of linking the highway to Interstate 59 east of Birmingham in addition to the planned link to Interstate 65 north of downtown Birmingham. The intersection with I-65 will be the most expensive interchange ever built in the state at an estimated $141.million.
Corridor X will largely follow the route of U.S. 78 from Birmingham northwest to the Mississippi border - a heavily traveled truck route. The highway has experienced delay after delay since plans for the highway were first made in the late 1970s. Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby has helped get more funding from the federal government since he became chairman of the powerful Senate transportation committee, and Gov. Don Siegelman has also been a big supporter since he took office in January 1999.
A spokesperson for Siegelman's office says everything will be under construction by 2002, except the four-lane section between Jasper and Graysville. Currently, 16 miles of the highway are open in Marion County and 7 miles in Walker County.
Corridor X is part of a highway system called the Appalachian Development Highway System, overseen by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Some of the corridors in the project have become numbered interstates when complete. It is not yet known whether Corridor X will become a new interstate or simply the new U.S. 78.