By Sarrah Peters
State Representative Craig Ford addressed the members of the Gadsden City Council during their meeting on Tuesday, February 17.
Ford asked the council members for help in pushing state officials for funding to extend I-759.
I-759 directly impacts the main roads of Gadsden including George Wallace Drive (AL Hwy 291) and Meighan Blvd. (U.S. 431).
Economically, the project would improve access to the largest businesses in the city, such as Goodyear Tire and Rubber, which employs about 1,600 workers, Gadsden Regional Medical Center, which employs about 1,200 workers, Wal-Mart, the largest commercial business in the city, and Gadsden State Community College, which has about 700 employees and 5,400 students.
The traffic count at the end of I-759, U.S. 431 and on AL Hwy. 291 is very high. The 2012 Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) at the end of I-759 is about 26,500 vehicles. For U.S. 431, the 2012 AADT was over 35,000 vehicles. For AL Hwy. 291, the 2012 AADT was about 19,500. The city is worried that the intersections have reached the functional limit and has resulted in unsafe driving conditions.
“I want people to understand that this is not a political issue. It’s a safety issue,” said Ford.
The councilmembers and Mayor Sherman Guyton expressed their support, and hope to meet with state officials to discuss funding for the extension.