Interstate 59 angles northeasterly from New Orleans through the Deep South to Hattiesburg, Meridian, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Chattanooga. The freeway sees a 153-mile overlap with Interstate 20 between Meridian and Birmingham, marking one of the longer overlaps in the Interstate System. U.S. 11 follows the entire length of Interstate 59 as well as Interstate 81; the likely reason why these two highways do not carry the same number is the lengthy stretch of Interstate 75 that follows U.S. 11 between Chattanooga and Knoxville.
Although never actually making it into New Orleans, Interstate 59 provides an important evacuation and trucking route for the central Gulf Coast. The southern terminus is located at the same interchange as the eastern terminus of Interstate 12. This interchange is located where Interstate 10 curves from the New Orleans metropolitan area eastward to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. At one time, plans called for I-59 to be routed south along I-10 into New Orleans, but those plans changed with the decision to route I-12 north of Lake Pontchartrain.
Heading north from Louisiana, Interstate 59 follows a forested route through Mississippi, which is a general constant along most Deep South freeways. Hattiesburg (home of the University of Southern Mississippi), Laurel and Meridian are all important destinations in Mississippi. The freeway sees older urban stretches through the latter two cities. Of those, the S-curve in Laurel was notorious for its tight radii, narrow bridges and short exit ramps. It was modernized by September 2009.
Interstates 20 and 59 combine from west of Meridian, Mississippi northeasterly to Tuscaloosa, with the University of Alabama and the spur Interstate 359, and Birmingham, Alabama. The pair split with Interstate 459, the Birmingham belt line, at Bessemer City, as they bee line for Downtown Birmingham and an elevated viaduct east of the “Malfunction Junction” interchange with Interstate 65. A four-year $450-million project replaces the 1971-built roadway between I-65 and U.S. 31 & 280 (Red Mountain Expressway) with a new viaduct system. Construction by late 2016 or 2017 involves the entire shutdown of I-20 & 59 by Downtown so that crews can demolish the old roadway and replace it. Read more details about the I-59 / I-20 Bridge Replacement Project on the guide for Interstate 20.
East from Downtown, I-20 & 59 part ways by Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) to Irondale and Trussville respectively. The section of Interstate 59 northeast of Birmingham straddles the southern reaches of the Appalachian Mountains, amid scenic settings. The route serves Gadsden, home of another spur route, Interstate 759. I-59 enters Georgia and ends at Interstate 24, with I-24 providing the link to I-75 at Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Parallel U.S. Routes
Interstate 59 follows U.S. 11 for its entirety between Slidell, Louisiana and Wildwood, Georgia. Short overlaps also exist with U.S. 98 along the west side of Hattiesburg, U.S. 84 through Laurel and U.S. 80 at Meridian, Mississippi.
U.S. 11 & 80 combine from Meridian east to Cuba, Alabama, where Interstate 85 may someday end. Northeast from there between Eutaw and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, parallel U.S. 11 combines with U.S. 43. Within Birmingham, U.S. 78 ties into the I-20 & 59 overlap both west of Downtown and east at Irondale. U.S. 411 begins in Leeds to mirror the course of I-59 northeast to Gadsden and Weiss Lake in Alabama as well.
Interstate 59 in Mississippi opened initially from the Louisiana line toward Picayune and from Hattiesburg to Laurel in 1963. All of the route south of the merge with Interstate 20 was completed by 1969.2
Within Louisiana, Interstate 59 was constructed first across the Pearl River as the replacement route for U.S. 11 at St. Rose in 1958. The stretch southward into Slidell, along with Interstate 10 south to the Twin Bridges opened in 1965-66.
Built in 1961, the S-curve in Laurel, Mississippi routed I-59 by an adjacent hospital and public housing project with a 40 MPH speed limit posted along a 0.75-mile stretch. The freeway was redesigned starting in 2005 onto a new six-lane 1,980 foot long elevated viaduct with gentler curves. Work commenced in June 2006, leading to an August 2008 opening of the new northbound lanes and a September 2009 overall completion. Additional funding remained from the original S-curve project, leading to widening of two more miles of I-59 heading northward. This included expanding the freeway footprint and widening the median from four to 15 feet. The expansion project ran between October 2009 and fall 2010.1
$16 million in road work took place between February 2002 and July 2004 at the three-wye interchange joining Interstates 24 and 59 in North Georgia. Work replaced 40-year old bridges and extended auxiliary lanes.3
North End – Wildwood, GA
South End – Slidell, LA
- Branch Routes – 3
Total Mileage – 445.23
Louisiana – 11.48
Cities – Slidell
- Junctions –
Mississippi – 171.72
Cities – Picayune, Hattiesburg, Laurel, Meridian
- Junctions –
Alabama – 241.36
Cities – Tuscaloosa, Bessemer, Birmingham, Gadsden, Ft. Payne
- Junctions –
Georgia – 20.67
Cities – Trenton
- Junctions –
Source: December 31, 2017 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
I-59 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT)
|Location||Vehicles per day|
Source: La DOTD – Average Daily Traffic Counts (2015)
Interstate 59 was completed from Heidelberg (Mississippi 528) north to the west split with Interstate 20 by 1969.2
Completion of Interstate 59 through North Georgia occurred in 1971.
North End – Wildwood, Georgia
South End – Slidell, Louisiana
|Perspective from Interstate 59 south|
|Having just split with U.S. 11 at Exit 3, Interstate 59 southbound presses towards the terminus with Interstates 10/12 at Exits 1A/B. Photo taken 05/09/15.|
|Exit 1A joins Interstate 12 west across the north side of Slidell. The intrastate route heads west to Covington, Mandeville and other Northshore communities along Lake Pontchartrain. Photo taken 05/09/15.|
|Beyond the Exit 1A departure to Interstate 12 west, Interstate 59 partitions into Exits 1B/C for Interstate 10 below the I-12 mainline. Photo taken 05/09/15.|
|Travelers continuing south to New Orleans join three westbound lanes of Interstate 10 ahead of U.S. 190 (Gause Boulevard) in Slidell. A seven mile drive carries motorists into Mississippi via Interstate 10 east from Exit 1B. Photo taken 05/09/15.|
|Historic Perspective from Interstate 59 south|
|This sign bridge, since removed, revealed that the mainline of Interstate 59 transitioned into Interstate 10 westbound. Access to Interstate 10 eastbound to Bay Saint Louis also continues straight toward a loop ramp at Exit 1B. Photo taken 08/20/01.|
|More photos showing older guide signs for the junction of Interstates 10-12-59 are posted on the Interstate 59 South – Louisiana highway guide.|
|Perspective from Interstate 10 east|
|Interstate 10 eastbound at the Exit 266 off-ramp to U.S. 190 (Gause Boulevard) and the city of Slidell. Exits 267A/B for Interstate 12 west and 59 north follows in 1.5 miles. Interstate 10 maintains six lanes through the city of Slidell and reduces to four east of the Interstate 12 and 59 junction. Photo taken 04/20/12.|
|Continuing north from U.S. 190, Interstate 10 prepares to give way to Interstate 59 northbound as it returns to an easterly trajectory. The control city of Interstate 10 is listed as Bay Saint Louis, the first city of any consequence in the state of Mississippi. Interstate 10 eastbound also serves the greater Biloxi-Gulfport area, Pascagoula, and Mobile, Alabama, within the next 100 miles. Photo taken 04/20/12.|
|The eastbound lanes of Interstate 10 transition into the northbound beginning of Interstate 59 to the left. Interstate 10 adds a fourth lane to the right and reduces to two through lanes as it turns eastward toward Pearl River Wildlife Management Area and the NASA John C. Stennis Space Center. Photo taken 04/20/12.|
|Historic Perspective from Interstate 10 east|
|Guide signs for Interstates 12 and 59 were replaced, north from Exit 266, in 2000. U.S. 190 ends seven miles to the east of Interstate 10 at White Kitchen. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (05/27/00).|
|More photos from this perspective, including 2000-based sign installations, at the Interstate 10 East – New Orleans East to Mississippi highway guide.|
|Perspective from Interstate 12 east|
|A loop ramp joins Interstate 12 east from U.S. 11, 1.5 miles ahead of the directional cloverleaf interchange with Interstates 10 and 59 north. Photo taken 05/09/15.|
|A lane drop for I-12 east occurs at the off-ramp (Exit 85A) for Interstate 10 leading back to New Orleans. Exit 85B follows as a loop ramp for the northbound beginning of Interstate 59. Photo taken 05/09/15.|
|Traffic heading southwest along I-10 to New Orleans partitions from the final stretch of Interstate 12 east. A loop ramp (Exit 85B) to Interstate 59 north follows in one quarter mile. Photo taken 05/09/15.|
|A loop ramp joins I-12 east from I-59 south ahead of the departure for Interstate 59 north. Interstate 59 ventures north to industrial areas at Pearl River before plying across wetland areas associated with Pearl River Wildlife Management Area. Photo taken 05/09/15.|
|Interstate 12 east defaults onto the left-hand side of Interstate 10 east ahead of Harrison County, Mississippi. Interstate 59 north meanwhile combines with U.S. 11 between Pearl River and Nicholson, Mississippi. Photo taken 05/09/15.|
|Historic Perspective from Interstate 12 east|
|Two lanes of Interstate 12 east reached the off-ramp (Exit 85A) for Interstate 10 west. Interstate 10 reaches the New Orleans city line in 11 miles. Photo taken 10/04/01.|
|2000 installed signs noting the sharp curve of the Exit 85B loop ramp were carbon copied after 2012. Photo taken 10/04/01.|
|Perspective from Interstate 10 west|
|Spanning the West Pearl River, Interstate 10 approaches both the Louisiana Welcome Center and the two mile approach to Interstates 12 west and 59 north. Photo taken 05/19/14.|
|A frontage road appears along side I-10 leading west to Louisiana 1090. Louisiana 1090 arcs northwest to end at the first Interstate 59 interchange, opposite of U.S. 11 west to Pearl River and Alton. Photo taken 05/19/14.|
|Three lanes extend west from the Louisiana Welcome Center to the split of Interstates 10 and 12 west (Exit 267B). I-10 veers southward from Slidell to New Orleans while I-12 straddles northern reaches of Lake Pontchartrain en route to Covington and Hammond. Photo taken 05/19/14.|
|Interstates 10 and 12 west partition on the north side of Slidell. The initial stretch of I-12 west carries drivers bound for the northbound beginning of Interstate 59. Photo taken 05/19/14.|
|Exit 267B departs a short distance beyond Interstate 10 for Interstate 59 north to Pearl River and Picayune, Mississippi. U.S. 11 north merges with the freeway at Exit 3. The US route also meets the first interchange of Interstate 12 at Exit 1. Photo taken 05/19/14.|
|Additional coverage of Interstate 10 west at Interstates 12 and 59, including replaced guide signs, at Interstate 10 West – Mississippi to New Orleans East highway guide.|
|Perspective from Interstate 59 north|
|Interstate 59 travels between several residential neighborhoods en route to Pearl River. Pictured here is the first northbound shield. Photo taken 05/19/14.|
- “Interstate 59 – Realigned interstate trades hazardous history for a safer future.”
https://garverusa.com/markets/transportation/42/interstate-59/Infrastructure Quarterly, 2009 Volume 1 Issue 2.
- Interstate Highway 59, Adam Froehlig.
- “Improving highway safety – Accidents down on I-24, I-59 after improvements, officials say.” Chattanooga Times Free Press, September 14, 2004.
Page updated February 18, 2016.