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After nearly 40 years, Interstate 759, one of the last significant road projects overseen by former Gov. George Wallace, will be completed as it was once initially proposed.

The 4.7-mile route that connected its parent highway, I-59, to the eastern bank of the Coosa River, opened in October 1986.

Decades earlier, in the 1960s, I-59 was completed. Still, roadbuilders had been forced to build the route due east of Gadsden through Attalla and bypassing Gadsden's downtown because of the mountainous terrain blocking the city to the north.

Initially, the I-759 spur was intended to offer Gadsden businesses direct access to I-59 and avoid going through downtown Gadsden on Meighan Boulevard, designated as U.S. Highways 278 and 431. However, the plans to finish I-759 to Meighan Boulevard in East Gadsden never came to fruition and traffic making its way to I-59 continues to go through downtown Gadsden.

On Wednesday, Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) officials made the formal announcement, touting the project as a product of the 2019 Rebuild Alabama Act.

State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) announced on social media that construction would begin on the connector in early 2024. The project is expected to take two years to complete.

"It's been going on for at least 20 years," Jones said.

Jones explained the project had been in a stop-and-go limbo beginning in 2001, but he touted long-term benefits for the route for his Etowah County constituents.

"It's going to be great for easing congestion and great for industrial recruitment," Jones said.

The connector will not formally be a part of the Interstate highway system given it will not meet the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) requirements. However, it will still be a controlled-access route and travelers will likely not be able to recognize the difference, according to Jones.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com.

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