Interstate 59 (abbreviated I-59) is a major thoroughfare traversing the Deep South serving as a connector between Chattanooga and New Orleans, paralleling U.S. Highway 11 for its entire length. During its 444 mile journey, it also serves the cities of Gadsden, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Meridian, Laurel and Hattiesburg. For a 145 mile stretch between Meridian and the I-59/20 split in eastern Birmingham, it shares the same right-of-way with Interstate 20. That section has historically been referred to as I-20/59 or 20/59, but in 2015 the Alabama Department of Transportation determined that the "official" joint designation should be I-59/20 because I-59 had been completed first.
Through Birmingham, I-59 serves as the main thoroughfare for traffic traveling from the southwest or northeast. It physically passes through the communities of McCalla, Bessemer, Brighton, Hueytown, Fairfield, Birmingham, Trussville, Argo, and Springville in both Jefferson County and St Clair County. It is also the parent route of auxiliary Interstate-459.
The 10-mile stretch from Keenes Mill Road to Union Church near Tuscaloosa was contracted to Blount Brothers Construction in 1965. It opened unofficially to traffic in October of that year.
The I-20/59 downtown viaduct was completed in 1971 and replaced with a taller deck in 2020.
A proposal to lower the interstate in downtown Birmingham was included in the city's 2004 City Center Master Plan. The Alabama Department of Transportation determined that the projected cost was too high and scheduled replacement of the existing elevated roadway.
A 5-mile section of the interstate between I-459 and Chalkville Mountain Road was widened from four to six lanes in 2022 with $50 million in funding from the Rebuild Alabama Act of 2019.
Through Birmingham, Gadsden, located 61 miles to the northeast, is primarily used as the control city for northbound lanes; however, between Exits 120 & 123 Downtown is instead used. Tuscaloosa, located 59 miles to the southwest, is used for southbound lanes.
Birmingham is first used as a control city at Exit 71 in Tuscaloosa for northbound travelers. For southbound travelers, Birmingham first appears at its northern terminus in Wildwood, Georgia.
|Exit Number||Route Served||Municipality||Direction||Lanes Each Way||Miles to the Next Exit Moving Northbound|
|104||Rock Mount Lakes Road||McCalla||N & S||3||1.76|
|106||I-459 North||Bessemer||N & S||3||2.76|
|108||Academy Drive/U.S. Highway 11||Bessemer||N & S||2||0.78|
|110||Visionland Parkway||Bessemer||N & S||2||2.65|
|112||18th Street/19th Street||Bessemer||N & S||2||1.51|
|113||18th Avenue||Brighton||N & S||2||2.22|
|113||Jaybird Road (Allison-Bonnett Memorial Drive Southbound)||Hueytown||N||2||2.4|
|118||Valley Road||Fairfield||N & S||2||1.03|
|119||Lloyd Noland Parkway (Avenue I Ensley Southbound)||Fairfield||N||3||1.69|
|120||Ensley Boulevard/Alabama Highway 269||Birmingham||N & S||4||2.23|
|123||Arkadelphia Road/U.S. Highway 78||Birmingham||N&S||4||1.37|
|125A||16th Street North||Birmingham||N||4||0.46|
|125B||22nd Street North||Birmingham||N & S||3||0.39|
|126A||Carraway Boulevard/U.S. Highway 31/U.S. Highway 280||Birmingham||N & S||3||0.54|
|126B||31st Street North||Birmingham||N & S||4||1.48|
|128||Tallapoosa Street/Alabama Highway 79||Birmingham||N & S||4||1.33|
|129||Airport Boulevard||Birmingham||N & S||3||0.71|
|130 (I-59/20 split)||I-20 East||Birmingham||N & S||4||1.51|
|132||1st Avenue North/U.S. Highway 11||Birmingham||N & S||3||1.52|
|133||4th Avenue North||Birmingham||N||2||0.66|
|134||Roebuck Parkway/Alabama Highway 75||Birmingham||N & S||2||2.81|
|137||I-459 South||Trussville||N & S||2 (3)||3.55|
|141||Trussville/Pinson (Chalkville Mountain Road)||Trussville||N & S||2||2.9|
|143||Deerfoot Parkway/Mt. Olive Church Road||Trussville||N & S||2||3.97|
|148||U.S. Highway 11||Argo||N & S||2||6.29|
|154||Alabama Highway 174||Springville||N & S||2||2.27|
|156||Alabama Highway 23||Springville||N & S||2||10.14|
|166||U.S. Highway 231||Ashville||N & S||2||7.31|
|174||Steele||Steele||N & S||2||7.66|
Of note between Exits 121 & 123 is an abandoned stretch of mainline interstate along the southbound lanes. These lanes were utilized between 1972 and 1977 as temporary lanes while the mainlines were being repaired. The repairs were necessary as a result of sinkholes forming near the shoulder. The repairs resulted in the construction of at-grade bridges over the gaps.
In being a major thoroughfare for both local and interstate travel, accidents are nearly a daily occurrence. Although there are too many to list, there have been several notable accidents in recent years. In both 2002 and 2004 incidents at Malfunction Junction resulted in partial closure of some travel lanes while they were reconstructed. Additionally, the elevated section between Exits 124 & 126 have been the location of multiple incidents of large steel coils falling from tractor trailers and punching holes in the mainlines. (See List of interstate accidents involving dropped steel loads.)
- AARoads, Interstate 59 Highway Guide. .
- State of Alabama Official 2005-2006 Highway Map
- USGS Case History No. 9.11. 14 Jul 2006 .
- Pillion, Dennis (January 9, 2019) "Why did I-20/59 become I-59/20 after 40 years?" The Birmingham News
- Pillion, Dennis (January 14, 2019) "14-month I-59/20 closure to start January 21." The Birmingham News