Bessemer Super Highway

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This article is about the highway, for the hip hop album, see 2Lue.

Bessemer Super Highway (or Bessemer Superhighway, originally the Birmingham-Bessemer Boulevard) is the section of U. S. Highway 11 connecting the cities of Bessemer and Birmingham. Between Border Street and Western Hills Mall, it is called Bessemer Road.

The divided four-lane highway, the first in the state, replaced a circuitous route through West End, Powderly and Lipscomb which was slowed by numerous railroad grade crossings. It was designed in the 1930s by Alabama State Highway Department engineers who used the German Autobahn system as a model. The chosen route followed a nearly straight line from 3rd Avenue West in Fairview, past the Alabama State Fairgrounds at Five Points West to 19th Street North in the heart of downtown Bessemer. It continues through Bessemer as 9th Avenue North.

As the project proceeded, many of the rail lines along the route were elevated on steel and concrete trestles to bridge over the highway. The new highway itself was raised onto a long viaduct, later named the Mary Bryant Bridge, as it crossed over rail yards on the way into Bessemer.

Due to the shortage of funds prevailing during the Great Depression, the State set aside plans to build large interchanges that would allow for limited freeway access. Had it been built according to the initial designs, the Bessemer Super Highway would have been distinguished, ahead of the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, as the first freeway in the United States.

In 1940 the highway department did install lighting along the entire route, thus creating what was, at the time, dubbed the longest "white way" east of the Rocky Mountains. The 227 pole lights were installed by the Birmingham Electric Company over 23 days, including Sundays. The system was turned on at a ceremony at 7:00 PM on December 30 of that year. The project, instigated by the Bessemer Junior Chamber of Commerce was hailed as "a boon to the national defense program and as a monument to progress of traffic safety engineering in Alabama."

The Super Highway, as it quickly came to be known, spurred the development of new businesses catering to the driving public in the post-World War II boom. The corridor's economic growth continued nearly unabated until the completion of I-59/20.

In 2010 the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham proposed a revitalization plan for the Super Highway anchored by improved mass transit. The transit corridor would include primary stops at Five Points West, Aaron Aronov Drive/B. Y. Williams Drive, downtown Bessemer, Academy Drive, and Eastern Valley Road. Commercial revitalization would be encouraged at those intersections.

Notable locations