I-59 northbound traffic temporarily shifted to southbound side for 11 miles

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Interstate 59 is seen in DeKalb County, Ala., from this northward view from the Hammondville Exit 221 bridge on Jan. 25.

If you're traveling Interstate 59 in Alabama over the next year, plan a little extra time for delays near the DeKalb-Etowah county line, because northbound traffic this week was rerouted to the southbound side until at least mid-2023.

The $44 million project started in February will reconstruct about 11 miles of I-59 from south of Stephens Gap Road to south of Exit 205 at Alabama Highway 68, Alabama Department of Transportation officials said. The remaining 5.5 miles will be reconstructed after the southern 5.5-mile segment from Stephens Gap Road is complete.

The switch of sides affects all traffic on several miles of I-59 in Alabama between Reece City and Collinsville, where transitions have been constructed and barriers are in place, Seth Burkett, spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said Wednesday in a news release.

The shift starts near mile-marker 194, south of Stephens Gap Road in northern Etowah County, to about a mile north of the DeKalb County line, he said. Motorists will likely see backups in both directions.

"Traffic is now shifted," Seth Burkett said Thursday in an email.

Contractor Wiregrass Construction moved northbound traffic to the inside southbound lane so that removal and reconstruction of the northbound roadway can begin, he said.

Officials said the project is anticipated to be finished in summer 2024.

Combined with the recent $25.2 million project on about 8 miles of the northbound side of I-59 in Fort Payne, the projects represent an investment of about $70 million in reconstructing the I-59 corridor in Northeast Alabama, Seth Burkett said.

(READ MORE: $8.6 million upgrade underway on Ringgold Road in East Ridge)

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency spokesman Sgt. Jeremy Burkett, who is not related to Seth Burkett, said most commuters are already familiar with the project plan ahead for passing through the construction zone.

"We haven't had any significant issues that I'm aware of," Jeremy Burkett said Thursday in a phone interview.

Contractors on other projects elsewhere in Alabama have accomplished the traffic shift without major problems, he said.

"It's just going to be in the morning and evening," Jeremy Burkett said. "Most of your commuters just plan ahead a little bit."

Dothan, Alabama-based Wiregrass Construction started the work less than six months ago by building up the outside shoulder of the southbound side to widen it for two-way traffic in preparation for closure and reconstruction of the northbound side, according to the Department of Transportation.

(READ MORE: Lane shift on Cleveland's Highway 60 project to remain for several months)

The work on I-59 is needed because the roadway is aging despite its sturdy original construction, officials said. The segment of I-59 was originally constructed as a concrete roadway, which can last many decades, but at over 60 years old, the concrete has outlived its design life and in recent years has increasingly deteriorated, requiring constant maintenance of both the concrete slabs and the overlying asphalt, officials said.

Meanwhile, the separate project to reconstruct about 8 miles of the northbound lanes on I-59 in Fort Payne is all but finished, transportation officials said. The project in Fort Payne addressed similar issues.

"They are now working on the punch list, which is just a list of minor final work items and corrections to complete before the project is accepted for maintenance," Seth Burkett said. "All lanes in both directions are open to traffic, and no major traffic impacts are anticipated, but there is a possibility of single-lane closures if any of those final work items require them to get in the road."

Wiregrass Construction is also the contractor on the Fort Payne project, which was divided into two sections, according to officials.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.