From Malfunction Junction in Birmingham to the I-65/I-85 split in Montgomery, the bulk of the traffic coming from points north to the Gulf Coast beaches between St. George Island, Fla. to Dauphin Island is funneled on an over-congested 90-mile stretch of Interstate highway.

Even though the number of beachgoers traveling that route has increased exponentially over the past 40 years, Interstate 65 remains mostly the same as it has since it was finally completed in the 1980s in the areas around Birmingham.

The exceptions are widening improvements in Shelby County south of Interstate 459 and north of Montgomery in Elmore and Autauga Counties.

However, a stretch of I-65 through Chilton County is one of Alabama's most congested stretches of roadway. State Rep. Van Smith (R-Billingsley) would like to see that change.

During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show," Smith offered his assessment of I-65 traffic problems plaguing parts of his district and expressed his hope for attention from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT).

"I am very much a proponent of that," he said. "We such tourism that comes the long way through Alabama, from the Tennessee line to our wonderful beaches. We've got the goose that laid the golden egg in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. And I'm afraid that there's a lot of our friends from up north that are going to quit coming to our beaches if they're going to have to sit in traffic for hours at a time in that area you just mentioned."

"We see the six-laning, or maybe even eight-laning down just past Alabaster," Smith continued. "And then you don't have it anymore until you get to Montgomery. And I really think that ALDOT — that ought to be a project. Of course, I would love to see ALDOT come out with 'we've got short-term projects, we've got intermediate projects, we've got long-term projects,' and kind of get on a schedule and let's work to get those things done. And that would have to be a priority. Each time I've talked to friends at ALDOT, right now they have I-85 has a higher priority because of deaths and because of wrecks."

"I don't want to have to see us have more deaths or wrecks on 65 so that our ranking goes up," he added. "But I sure would like to see some priority given to that to get us to the beaches and once we get on down in South Alabama, too — the Beach Express going from 65 down to Orange Beach. I love that route. Would love to see it finished."

Jeff Poor is the editor in chief of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.

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