Interstate 359 is a short spur linking I-59/20 with U.S. 43 and Downtown Tuscaloosa. The freeway was envisioned as part of an overall highway plan including the Hugh Thomas Bridge across the Black Warrior River and the couplet of Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevards (25th/26th Avenues) between Northport and Tuscaloosa.1 Interstate 359 runs concurrent with U.S. 11 and Alabama State Route 69 from Skyland Boulevard in south Tuscaloosa to 15th Street, where U.S. 43 enters from near Stillman College.
Interstate 359 was part of the urban Interstate numerology approved by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) for the state of Alabama on November 10, 1958. A map showing the proposed Interstate System in Alabama submitted by the Alabama Highway Department to AASHO on April 4, 1958 showed the Tuscaloosa spur as Route A59.
Planning for the Tuscaloosa spur began in 1961.4 Costing $7 million, the Hugh Thomas Bridge between Northport and Downtown Tuscaloosa, opened to traffic on December 17, 1973 in conjunction with the Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard couplet.2 The first contract (July 1979) for Interstate 359 involved construction of the interchange with I-59/20 and the expansion of the freeway to six overall lanes eastward to McFarland Boulevard (U.S. 82). The second project (October 1979) focused on work to build I-359 between the AGS Railroad and I-59/20. The third project (March 1980) built the freeway viaduct from the AGS Railroad to 15th Street. Work on the northernmost portion, from 15th Street to 12th Street was under contract by September 1980.3 Included in the construction of Interstate 359 was work on 15th Street, which included a viaduct over the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad and expansion of the road from two to six lanes.
Work culminated on the $41 million Interstate project with a ribbon cutting ceremony held on the afternoon of September 13, 1983.4 Associated construction with 15th Street to Stillman Boulevard continued through mid November 1983. The speed limit along I-359 was initially set at 50 miles per hour.5
Tuscaloosa Inset – 1974 Alabama Official Highway Map
Construction of Interstate 359 replaced the alignment of U.S. 11 and U.S. 82 between Downtown Tuscaloosa and the Taylorville area. The arterial bypass for U.S. 82 was completed in the 1970s while U.S. 11 was realigned away from Greensboro Avenue onto the freeway spur.