By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
In April of 2015, Governor Robert Bentley visited Gadsden to speak to the Gadsden/Etowah Chamber. During this trip, Bentley was invited by State Representative Craig Ford to drive along Interstate 759. Now, two years later, that has paid off.
On Monday, April 3, Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton and Ford held a press confererence at Gadsden State Community College’s Joe Ford Center to announce Bentley’s decision to fast track the I-759 extension.
“It’s a great day in Etowah County,” said Guyton.
The extension will continue I-759 through east Gadsden to U.S. 431 and U.S. 278.
“This is something long overdue,” said Ford.
In 2015, ALDOT conducted studies that sought to identify the best route to continue the interstate. The proposed extension is about two miles long.
“A traffic study completed by ALDOT in 2015 showed a compelling need for establishing a link between I-759 and Highway 431,” said Bentley. “We look forward to the progression of this project that will be so important to the growth and economic development of the Gadsden area. I have asked Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper to lead this effort and supervise the advancement of this project.”
The next step for the project will be a detailed survey for the proposed route, which should begin soon.
Ford said that the project “would not happen overnight,” but could be completed within two to three years.
“759 is the aorta for Etowah County to develop,” said Ford. “ This will open up economic development. It will provide safety. It’s going to help our two-year school system here at Gadsden State Community College due to the traffic we have right now on 759.”
Ford also talked about the industrial growth the extension could help create, stating that “if you could get an 18-wheeler straight from Hokes Bluff to I-59 without stopping, then you are going to have jobs created here in Etowah County.”
The reduced traffic will benefit existing businesses, including several of the city’s largest employers, including GSCC, Gadsden Regional Medical Center and Goodyear. Gadsden Fire Chief Stephen Carroll and Gadsden Police Chief Lamar Jaggears said the traffic reduction from the extension could reduce the number of car accidents, increase traffic flow and decrease emergency vehicle response times.
Ford thanked Guyton, his staff and Frankie Davis for all their help in making this happen, while Guyton also thanked Ford and Bentley.
“This is what government is supposed to be about,” said Ford. “This is a cooperation with state and municipalities working together.”