Interstate 565 Huntsville/Madison County
Spurring Economic Growth in North Alabama
Inducted in 2015
The largest project ever completed by the Alabama Department of Transportation, Interstate 565 through Madison County has sparked economic development and growth, improving quality of life for North Alabama. Completing it required overcoming engineering challenges, and the interstate stands the test of time.
Despite rapid growth in the region in the 1950s and 1960s stemming from the establishment of the United States Army Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal and the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, was the most populous city in the contiguous U.S. without a freeway connection to the Interstate Highway System before I-565 opened in 1991. The concept for the interstate was approved by the Federal Highway Administration in 1968 and is part of the federal Appalachian Development Highway System, a program enacted to develop easily navigable highways throughout the Appalachia.
The development of I-565 consisted of 36 separate construction projects, and more than $435 million has been spent on the interstate, including a new interchange currently under construction. ALDOT was one of the first groups in the nation to plan and design the interstate under newly passed federal regulations that required environmental impact studies. From environmental assessments and surveys to land condemnation and right-of-way acquisition, from mitigation to design, engineering and construction, completion of this project included the team effort of numerous engineering and construction firms and design coordination.
Construction on the 22-mile spur connecting Interstate 65 near Decatur with U.S. Highway 72 in Huntsville began in 1987. Innovative engineering was needed to overcome geometry-design challenges. There are more than 6 miles of bridges, and the interstate crosses over the Southern Railway at such a skew that structural engineers had to use unconventional and complex design methods. Parts of the design also required cutting rock from mountainous areas, and strategic business and residential relocations were required to satisfy environmental issues.
Some parts of I-565 carry more than 100,000 cars daily, and the freeway relieves congestion and cuts cross-city trip times. The spur has yielded an estimated $1.72 for each dollar spent in its construction and has become a vital part of the state’s transportation infrastructure.
The interstate provides for a better movement of goods into Huntsville and improves access to the airport. Also, tourism in the Huntsville area is estimated to add $1 billion to the local economy. I-565 played a crucial role in easing access to area attractions for the more than 2.7 million visitors in 2012.
The Huntsville-Decatur combined statistical area of four counties has also greatly benefited from I-565. Its completion is credited with making Madison the city it is today, and Madison is often recognized nationally as one of the best places to live. Huntsville, too, is consistently named a best place to live and work. The metro area has become a hub in the Tennessee Valley region, and Madison County is now the third most populated county in Alabama.