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My arch enemy, and its crimes against travel - Curt Yeomans

Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.

Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.

I have an arch enemy, a nemesis, if you will, that is the bane of my traveling existence.

It is a villain whose crime against travel is so heinous that it belongs in the Pantheon of Super Villains, next to Lex Luther and the Joker. It can strike fear in the heart of any good-natured traveler when they are least expecting it, and it seemingly has no weakness.

It is the stretch of Interstate 20, in eastern Alabama, that lies between Birmingham and the Alabama-Georgia state line, or as I like to call it, The Highway of Never-ending Roadwork. I have to travel on it every time I go between my home in Georgia, and Hattiesburg, Miss., where I attended college.

I am not exaggerating when I say this particular stretch of road has essentially been under construction since my freshman year, at the University of Southern Mississippi, in 1996. Since then, I can only recall one brief period, of only a couple of months, where there was no construction taking place on this stretch of road.

That is one instance spread out across 15 years of frequent trips between Georgia and Hattiesburg for school, and later trips back for Homecoming football games. And, strangely enough, the construction is almost always in the same general area, near Pell City, Ala.

How do you spend the bulk of 15 years doing roadwork on the same stretch of highway, and never seem to get close to finishing the work? Do you just hire road construction companies that are so inept at what they do, that they never seem to get the work right, thereby causing it to have to be done all over again? And again. And again. And again.

If they were to name a church in Pell City after this stretch of highway, it could only be called Our Lady of Perpetual Construction.

I most recently went back to Hattiesburg last weekend for this year’s Southern Miss Homecoming football game against Southern Methodist University. I hit one, seven-mile-long construction area just west of Pell City, going to Hattiesburg. On my way back, I hit that same construction area, plus another one in Anniston, Ala., and yet another just west of the state line.

Normally, the speed limit on this stretch of road should be 70 miles per hour, from the state line, to Birmingham. But, every time you hit a construction area, you are required to drop down to 55 miles per hour. Eventually, between Anniston and the state line, they said, “Why not? –– we’ll just make them drive 55 miles per hour until they reach Georgia!”

Anniston is 22 miles west of the state line! AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!

Meanwhile, over the last 15 years, the Mississippi Department of Transportation had developed plans to re-route Interstate 59, in Laurel, Miss., to remove an “S”-Curve. The money for construction was raised. It commenced and was completed. And, they have removed any sign that the “S”-Curve ever existed, or that construction ever took place in Laurel.

Mississippi’s Department of Transportation has also rebuilt all of the highways and bridges along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, following Hurricane Katrina, and built (and opened) Mississippi’s 21-mile stretch of Interstate 69, in the northwest part of the state.

How bad do you really have to be when Mississippi is aheasd of you?

More locally, the Georgia Department of Transportation has completely renovated the Downtown Connector, in Atlanta, and built two new bridges over the connector. And, that was only in the last FOUR YEARS!

The quick completion of those Mississippi and Georgia road projects gives me some hope that the work on I-20, in Alabama, may some day be finished, but I am not keeping my hopes up.

I may be dead of old age before my arch enemy is finally vanquished.

Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.