Tuscaloosa Inset - 1974 Alabama Official Highway Map
Construction of Interstate 359 replaced the alignment of U.S. 11 and 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.
Interstate 359 is a short spur linking Interstates 20 and 59 with U.S. 43 and Downtown Tuscaloosa. The spur was envisioned as part of an overall highway plan including the Hugh Thomas Bridge across the Black Warrior River and the one-way couplet of Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevards (originally 25th & 26th Avenues) between Northport and Tuscaloosa.1 Interstate 359 coincides with U.S. 11 and Alabama 69 from Skyland Boulevard in south Tuscaloosa to 15th Street, where U.S. 43 enters from near Stillman College.
Planning for the Tuscaloosa spur began in 1961.4 The Hugh Thomas Bridge, between Northport and downtown Tuscaloosa, was opened on December 17, 1973 in conjunction with the Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard couplet at a cost of $7 million.2 The first contract (July 1979) of Interstate 359 involved construction of the interchange with Interstates 20 & 59 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 AGS Railroad and Interstates 20 & 59. The third project (March 1980) entailed 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 lanes to six.
Work culminated on the $41-million Interstate during a ribbon cutting ceremony the afternoon of September 13, 1983.4 Associated work with 15th Street to Stillman Boulevard continued through mid-November 1983. Speed limits along I-359 were initially set at 50 miles per hour.5
Four lanes of Interstate 359 southbound pass under 35th Street, one mile from the freeway conclusion at Skyland Boulevard. The right-hand two lanes provide access to forthcoming Interstates 20 & 59. Photo taken 10/21/12.
Two lanes of Interstate 359, U.S. 11 and Alabama 69 branch away for Interstates 20 & 59 to Meridian, Mississippi and Birmingham. U.S. 11 north & Alabama 69 continue to the freeway end at Skyland Boulevard where they split for Cottondale and Moundsville respectively. Photo taken 10/21/12.
A two-lane flyover carries traffic from I-359 south onto Interstates 20 east & 59 north to Bessemer and Birmingham. Drivers taking I-20/59 south exit Tuscaloosa for a rural drive across low rolling hills and pine forest 80 miles to Meridian. Photo taken 10/21/12.
Interstate 359 draws to a close at the signalized intersection with Skyland Boulevard and Oscar Baxter Drive. U.S. 11 turns easterly onto Skyland, paralleling I-20/59 through south Tuscaloosa. SR 69 continues south 35 miles to Greensboro. Photo taken 10/21/12.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 359 south
A zero milepost was posted at the I-359 intersection with Skyland Boulevard. The marker was not present in 2012. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (01/03/03).
Perspectives from Interstate 359 north, U.S. 11 south & Alabama 69 north
Interstate 359 begins its northbound journey immediately after this traffic light on northbound Alabama 69 with Oscar Baxter Drive west and Skyland Boulevard (U.S. 11) east. U.S. 11 combines with SR 69 here.
Span-wire supported traffic lights pictured here were replaced with mast-arm supported signals by 2012. Photo taken by Ed Wilson (2/02).
Immediately north of the freeway beginning is the northbound off-ramp for Interstates 20 & 59 to Birmingham. A directional-cloverleaf interchange facilitates the movements between the two freeways. Photo taken 10/21/12.
A loop ramp follows onto Interstates 20 west & 59 south for Eutaw, Livingston and Meridian, Mississippi. Photo taken 10/21/12.
Historical Perspective from U.S. 11 south
A bank of signs were posted at the U.S. 11 southbound turn onto Interstate 359 & Alabama 69 north from Skyland Boulevard. As of 2012, no signage whatsoever was posted for any route from Skyland Boulevard west. Photo taken by Adam Froehlig (2/01).
Milepost zero of Interstate 359 was posted at the intersection of Alabama 69 and Skyland Boulevard. It was removed by 2012. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (03/06/03).
Perspective from Interstates 20 east & 59 north
Two miles out from Exits 71A/B with Interstate 359 north, U.S. 11 & Alabama 69. Standard ALDOT practice is to sign freeway to freeway junctions two miles out. Photo taken 10/21/12.
One mile west of the junction with Interstate 359. Signs for Exit 71 omit U.S. 11, which meets Interstates 20 & 59 at three of the next five interchanges. Photo taken 10/21/12.
Exit 71A leaves the eastbound freeway for U.S. 11 north to Skyland Boulevard and Alabama 69 south to Moundsville. Exit 71B follows as a loop ramp onto I-359 north to downtown Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama campus. Photo taken 10/21/12.
Interstates 20 east & 59 north reach the Exit 71B ramp departure for Interstate 359 north, U.S. 11 south and Alabama 69 north. Connections with the Hugh Thomas Bridge lead motorists north to Jasper (via SR 69) and Hamilton (via US 43). Photo taken 10/21/12.
Freeway to freeway junctions in Alabama generally include gore point signs with a route shield. Exit 71B is no exception to this practice. Photo taken 10/21/12.
Perspective from Interstates 20 west & 59 south
The first guide sign posted for Interstate 359 & Alabama 69 resides within the Exit 73 diamond interchange at U.S. 82 (McFarland Boulevard). Photo taken 06/12/08.
Interstates 20 west & 59 south expand to three lanes between the McFarland Boulevard on-ramp and Exit 71 with Interstate 359, U.S. 11 and Alabama 69. Widening of the freeway along this stretch occurred with construction of I-359. Photo taken 10/21/12.
Exits 71B/A is the last of five interchanges to serve the city of Tuscaloosa. Motorists bound for U.S. 82 west to Pickens County, Columbus and Starkville should follow I-359 north to U.S. 43 and Northport. This may change if the Tuscaloosa Eastern Bypass (SR 297) is ever completed. Photo taken 10/21/12.
Two lanes leave Interstates 20 west & 59 north for Interstate 359 north at Exit 71B. A loop ramp follows onto Alabama 69 south to Greensboro. Photo taken 10/21/12.
Northern Terminus - U.S. 43 - Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Perspective from Interstate 359 north
Interstate 359 northbound enters a diamond interchange with 15th Street ahead of the freeway transition to Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard. U.S. 11 south departs at Exit 2 for an overlap south with U.S. 43 south by Stillman College to Eutaw. Photo taken 10/21/12.
Motorists lower from the I-359 viaduct over 15th Street to merge with Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard (U.S. 43) north ahead of downtown Tuscaloosa. Alabama 69 and U.S. 43 overlap through to the Hugh Thomas Bridge into Northport and U.S. 82 (McFarland Boulevard). Photo taken 10/21/12.
Perspective from U.S. 43/Alabama 69 south
Southbound traffic along Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard partitions with three lanes ascending onto the Interstate 359 viaduct and a two-lane ramp departing for 15th Street and U.S. 11 & 43 south to Stillman College and Fosters. U.S. 11 north joins Alabama 69 south along the short freeway to Interstates 20 & 59. Photo taken 10/21/12.
Perspective from 15th Street west
15th Street westbound, which at this point carries no numbered route, meets the northern terminal interchange of Interstate 359 and U.S. 11 & 43. U.S. 11 & 43 originally followed Stillman Boulevard northeast to 24th Avenue, the old alignment of U.S. 82. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (04/27/03).
Perspective from 15th Street east
15h Street eastbound (U.S. 11 & 43 north) at the southbound ramp for Interstate 359 & Alabama 69. U.S. 11 north turns south along I-359 through to Skyland Boulevard. 15th Street meanwhile continues east to U.S. 82 (McFarland Boulevard) at University Mall. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (12/28/02).
"Bridge Contract Welcome; I-359 Needed." The Tuscaloosa News, November 2, 1970.
"Bridge, Street Are Dedicated." The Tuscaloosa News, December 17, 1973.
"Exchange briefed on I-359 project." The Tuscaloosa News, June 1, 1979.
"Opening of I-359 applauded." The Tuscaloosa News, September 14, 1983.
"Interstate link speeding traffic flow." The Tuscaloosa News, October 27, 1983.