National Starting Point: Memphis, TN
National Ending Point: Charleston, SC
Total Distance: 715 miles
States: TN, MS, AL, GA, SC
Mississippi Starting Point: Tennesse border near
Olive Branch, MS
Mississippi Ending Point: Alabama border near Tremont, MS
Mississippi Distance: 117.521 miles
Mississippi Counties: DeSoto, Marshall,
Benton, Union, Pontotoc, Lee, Itawamba
Cities/towns over 5,000 pop served: Holly Springs, New Albany, Tupelo
2.4 miles with MS 30 in New Albany
4.0 miles with MS 9 between Blue Springs and Sherman
3.8 miles with MS 25 near Fulton
NHS: Entire length.
Freeway Segments: Entire length. Exit List.
Other Multilane Segments: N/A
Average Daily Traffic (2000): Ranges from 7,700 at the Alabama border to 28,000 near Olive Branch. All sections west of Fulton carry at least 13,000.
Average Daily Traffic (2000):
DeSoto County: 24,000 (at TN Line) to 37,000 (west of MS 302) to 24,000 (east of Hacks Cross Rd) to 27,000 (east of Ingrams Mill)
Marshall County: 28,000 (east of MS 309) to 15,000 (east of MS 4/MS 7) to 17,000 (east of Potts Camp)
Rankin County: 73,000 (east of US 49) to 34,000 (in Brandon) to 18,000 (east of MS 43)
Benton County: 17,000 (west of MS 178/2/5) to 19,000 (east of MS 178/2/5)
Union County: 19,000 (west of Myrtle) to 24,000 (west of MS 30 WEST) to 18,000 (MS 9 duplex)
Pontotoc County: 18,000 (MS 9 duplex) to 20,000 (east of MS 9 SOUTH)
Lee County: 20,000 (west of Belden) to 17,000 (east of Belden) to 24,000 (east of Veterans Blvd) to 16,000 (east of MS 371)
Itawamba County: 16,000 (west of Dorsey) to 20,000 (east of MS 363) to 12,000 (MS 25 duplex) to 8,500 (AL Line)
Early proposals for the Interstate System suggested a Memphis to Birmingham route, along US 78. These didn't pan out, but Mississippi still embraced the idea and sought out to build a new US 78 to interstate-standards, albeit a lot more slowly. By 1972, only the bypass around New Albany was built. US 78's inclusion as an Appalachian Regional Commission corridor (Corridor X in this case) helped. The 1987 Highway Program included funds to complete the work, and the entire corridor was completed in the early '90s. Alabama is working on their part as well, though they started later than Mississippi, are working much more slowly, and have only completed their section from the Mississippi border to AL 129/Winfield.
US 78 is fully up to interstate standards with two exceptions. The first exception is shoulders. Most of the route was built with graded shoulders, but no pavement on them. The exceptions are the DeSoto County segment, from east of Holly Springs to New Albany, and from Tupelo to Fulton. This could be fixed easily though. The other exception is the New Albany bypass. Built by 1972, it has a very narrow grass or concrete median and curbing instead of an inside shoulder. This could be fixed, by widening the inside shoulder and installing a Jersey barrier, but it would cost a bit and require some bridge work. I doubt MDOT is going to do anything about it in the near future.
There has been a push recently by business and community
leaders along US 78 to have the corridor designated as an
Interstate. While this is certainly a possibility, short of
Congressional legislation, there are five things would have to be
accomplished first before an Interstate designation could be
- Complete the Alabama portion to I-65.
- Complete the signage upgrade in Mississippi.
- Upgrade the shoulders.
- Upgrade the New Albany section (would require a Jersey barrier and adding outside shoulders to the bridges, at a minimum).
- Build an Interstate-grade connection to I-55, I-240, or I-40 in the Memphis area.
The whole "get Congress to designate it before its finished" thing has me a little edgy. An Interstate designation means that the road you're on has been built to a certain minimum set of standards, and half of the corridor in Mississippi does not meet those standards. While pursuing an Interstate designation is worthwhile (and something I support), posting it before the road is up to standards sends the wrong message.
What I'd Do:
Simple. Fix the shoulders, fix the New Albany bypass section, and build the "Memphis connection". The signage part is already underway.
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