I know this is the Mid-South Retail Blog, but today we'll be taking a look at a slightly different subject: a grand opening... not of a store, but of an interstate! Yes, today's feature post covers the brand-new Interstate 269. I-269 is co-signed with MS Highway 304, and forms an "outer beltway" around Memphis. It connects with I-55 at its southern end in Hernando, MS, and travels eastward from there before taking a northerly turn at Byhalia, MS, and crossing the state line into Tennessee, where it becomes co-signed with TN State Route 385. From there, it intersects I-40, which is where its signing currently ends, but the plan ultimately is to extend the interstate just a little bit farther so that it reaches its northern end at US Hwy 51 in Millington, TN.
I know several retail fans that are also part of the "road geek" community, and hopefully, if you've found this post via Google, you were intentionally seeking it out. But I also don't want to alienate my usual readers/subscribers who may not happen to be both road fans and retail fans, so I'll try to keep the history part here brief and instead focus mostly on the pictures later in the post. From what I can gather, I-269 was first thought up in the early- to mid-2000s: interstates are in the planning stages for a long time! This process occurred more or less simultaneously with the talks for the local portions of Interstate 69, also known as the NAFTA Superhighway (which dates back even further!), which is ultimately supposed to travel across the United States from Canada to Mexico (but is likely going to take decades more before the whole route actually comes to fruition, although that's a story for another day).
Anyway, the plan for I-69 was to have it come down through the Memphis area, before crossing into Mississippi and heading west across the Mississippi River into Arkansas. One of the plans for I-69 had it being constructed entirely new as a loop outside of the city of Memphis, but Memphis city leaders wanted the interstate to head through the city itself, instead. As a result, the route for I-69 was changed to overlay the existing I-55 through Memphis and across the state line into Mississippi, where at Hernando a brand-new incomplete cloverleaf interchange was constructed, separating I-69 from I-55 and having it travel westward - concurrently with a rerouted MS 304 - towards Tunica, MS (the current end of the local interstate stub). The outer loop plan, meanwhile, was kept, and simply renumbered as Interstate 269: designed to serve local traffic as a bypass around Memphis. I mentioned an incomplete cloverleaf interchange at I-55: when completed, the eastern side of this interchange would form the start of I-269, as well as a new leg of MS 304, which would in effect share the road with both I-69 on one side of the intersection with I-55, and I-269 on the other. A map of this layout is shown below to help you visualize the situation.
The I-69 leg from I-55 westward to Tunica opened to traffic in October 2006, and the I-69 designation was extended northward along I-55 through DeSoto County and the city of Memphis beginning in May 2008. I-269, meanwhile, would have a bit of a longer wait before seeing any work take place. Ultimately, the first sections of the road would open in 2015: in Tennessee, a section connecting I-269 with SR 385; and in Mississippi, a continuation of that section from TN SR 385, down to MS 302. While Tennessee's work was largely finished at this point (seeing as how I-269 was just overlaid atop the existing SR 385), Mississippi still had a ways to go to connect I-269 to I-55, and the Mississippi Department of Transportation chose to bridge this gap by dividing the remaining I-269 construction into multiple segments. The second segment, spanning from MS 302 to MS 305 (and including an interchange with I-22/US Hwy 78), opened in December 2017... and the third and final segment, stretching from MS 305 to the I-55/I-69 incomplete cloverleaf interchange, held its ribbon cutting on Friday, October 26, 2018, celebrating the official completion of the beltway connection of I-55 in MS to I-40 in TN.
The pamphlet cover at the top of this post comes from that ribbon cutting ceremony; the opposite side of that pamphlet, as well as a picture from the ceremony itself, can be seen above. Unfortunately, however, I did not have the chance to attend the ceremony myself - I simply found those pictures online (in a lease listing
, of all places!). That said, just because I missed the ceremony the morning of October 26th, doesn't mean that I didn't make it back to town later in the day, just in time to ride the new interstate on its first day! The majority of the remainder of this post is dedicated to images from I-269's first weekend as a fully-completed interstate, although up first, here are a couple of quick pre-opening pictures...
In advance of the October 2018 connection of the existing portions of I-269 to I-55, new signs began to go up on I-55 for the new interstate. As noted previously, I-269 shares a cloverleaf interchange at I-55 with I-69; this includes a set of connector-distributor (CD) lanes. In the past, the exit signs for these CD lanes only advertised the southbound I-69 route, towards Tunica; but with I-269 soon to come into play, the signs needed to be revised. Hence, the erection of the two signs shown here, as viewed from southbound I-55 on June 18, 2018. The CD lane (as shown in the bottom picture) was renumbered from a simple "Exit 283" to "Exits 283B-A," and the "1 mile" sign was edited to include both South I-69 and its control city of Tunica, and North I-269 and its control city of... well... whatever is hidden behind that black plastic covering that MDOT put up so as to avoid misleading drivers by revealing an unopened interstate too early! Not to worry, though, as we'll see the reveal of that control city soon enough...
Fast-forward to late October, and here we are: celebrating the grand opening of the full stretch of I-269! Even MDOT was joining the party by advertising the new roadway on this (relatively new itself) overhead electronic alert sign above I-55 northbound, which reads "I-269 NOW OPEN AT EXIT 283." Aside from a few pictures I'll mention momentarily, all of these images were taken on the interstate's second day open to motorists: Saturday, October 27. My driver and I (I was chauffeured so I could safely get these pictures for y'all!) did indeed travel the road on its first
day as well... but unfortunately my camera batteries died before we even got off of I-55 :( On the plus side, the second day was a much sunnier day, with blue skies vs. gray on the 26th, so all in all the battery mishap worked in our favor!
From northbound I-55, we approach the "3/4 mile" sign to the cloverleaf interchange - aha, the control city for North I-269 is Collierville!
Approaching the CD lane in this photo, where you can see some additional overhead signage directing you either to stay on I-55, or to take a right onto Exit 283, depending on your destination. You can also see that I-55 was freshly paved in this view: a side project undertaken in coordination with the opening of I-269 (although it wasn't quite finished in time for the latter event!).
Interestingly enough, though the signs were uncovered on my Saturday road trip, on the interstate's first day the day prior, the I-269 designation and control city of Collierville remained "greened-out" on the overhead signs, as can be seen in these two photos!
Here's a look at the second set of overhead signs - differentiating between Exits 283A (I-269) and 283B (I-69) - as seen without the green-out, as well as a look at the Exit 283A arrow sign itself. The overpass in the foreground of each of these photos carries Green T Road, which has no interchange with any of the three interstates it runs near.
Some gray skies overhead on Friday the 26th as we merge onto I-269 - like I said, the battery mishap actually worked much in our favor! The few photos you are seeing from that first day were instead taken on my cell phone camera, which I didn't expect to capture drive-by images clearly (so I was quite impressed with the results!). In the bottom image, you can see - near the bottom right - the "Mile 1" marker for the interstate... pretty cool! Also visible in the picture is the first overpass, which carries Hernando's McIngvale Road. For years, this McIngvale Road overpass was a point of contention between Hernando city leaders and MDOT. Hernando's officials wanted I-269 to have an exit at McIngvale Road, but MDOT didn't want to put an exit so close to I-55, citing regulations about distances between interchanges. Ultimately, however, MDOT agreed
to put an exit at McIngvale Road... if
Hernando agreed to undertake a construction project of its own to realign and widen the road. That interchange is still in the pipeline, but Hernando must complete its part first, so the exit was unable to be completed before the rest of I-269 opened to the public. Nevertheless, MDOT's North MS Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert writes
, "An interchange is [still] planned for I-269 at McIngvale Road and is expected to be advertised by MDOT for bids in 2019. However, Hernando has a project on McIngvale that will be constructed first. For information on that project, please contact the city."
Above, you'll find a better close-up image of the Mile 1 marker (and its nearby sign marking distances to upcoming interchanges), as well as a shot of one of the first reassurance shields on the roadway. Again, as noted, I-269 is co-signed with MS 304. What's interesting is that it's North 269, while it's East 304!
While the McIngvale Road interchange waits to come to fruition, the current first exit off of I-269 northbound is Exit 3, onto Getwell Road in Hernando. Shown above are a hodgepodge of cell phone images from October 26th and digital camera images from October 27th, as we approached the Getwell exit on both days.
On October 26th, since my digital camera had called it quits, we, too, decided to give up early and simply exit the new interstate at its first interchange. Consequently, in the above four images you can see our the progress of our merge off of 269 and onto Getwell Road. Of particular note here is that white MDOT truck towing away a bunch of the signs, cones, and barrels that had been used to block off the unopened I-269 to eager traffic for so long! I believe we may have traveled on the interstate in its very first hour on that Friday afternoon, which just makes our trek that day even cooler.
On October 27th, meanwhile, with my digital camera back in action, we decided to press forward, past Getwell Road...
|The I-269 shield looks like it was hit with a shrink ray on this one! :P|
...meaning that we soon came across the next interchange, Exit 5, with Laughter Road. I *think* this may still be in Hernando, but I'm not completely certain on the placement of city lines here. In any case, I do
know that you're probably pronouncing the street name wrong! Contrary to what you might think, it's not "laff
-ter"... it's "law
-ter." (I only found that out a few years ago myself, after having lived here since 2002!)
Exit 7, Craft Road in Lewisburg, was the next interchange. Even though it would've been cool to ride the whole span of I-269, we had other things to do on the Saturday these photos were taken (and, for that matter, we had already been on the rest of the road before, given that the section from MS 305 into Tennessee had already been open since December 2017), so we decided to hop off here. In case you're interested in seeing a full exit list, though, you can head over to the interstate's Wikipedia page
. (And some other sites of interest, in case you would like to check them out, are 269's AARoads Forum topic
and 269's Interstate Guide page
, as well as two of the same resources
for I-69 proper.)
Above are a handful of views taken during and after exiting onto Craft Road, including a few over-the-shoulder shots to see the flow of the remainder of the interstate that we didn't get to travel on. You'll note that the Craft Road stoplights and overpass bridge look almost identical to what we saw back at Getwell Road - that's because MDOT worked on overpass projects at pretty much all of the roads that would have interchanges with the future I-269 around the same time period, several years ago. My friend l_dawg2000
has a few construction images from that era in his ongoing album covering I-269 over at his flickr photostream, which you can check out here
. Craft Road is of particular interest because it had to be realigned prior to the overpass being constructed and the interstate being opened; as you can see in the northbound-facing image (looking straight ahead while driving across the bridge), the Lewisburg schools are directly past the interchange.
After we were done with our errands for the day, we decided to see what I-269 southbound was all about, seeing as how all we had been on over the weekend thus far was the northbound side. So, we hopped back on again, from Getwell Road I believe (although I could be wrong on that). The sun was starting to set by this time, so the following pictures may not have turned out the greatest... but I do like how the sunset looks in this particular image :)
Two miles before the point where I-269 crosses with I-55, drivers pass by this "Junction" sign. Again, as noted previously, note that the road itself continues to travel west of the cloverleaf interchange with I-55 with no interruption: it's just that the designation changes, from the beltway I-269 to I-69 proper.
The junction is officially numbered as I-269 Exits 1A-B, as can be seen in the top image above. (The bottom image simply shows a "Southaven - Exit 1/2 Mile" sign.) This will make for an interesting conundrum once the McIngvale Road interchange finally does come to fruition - since that exit is located at the true Mile 1 marker, will this be renumbered as a rare Exit 0
, or will MDOT just go the simple route and settle for numbering McIngvale as Exit 2?
The transition from asphalt to concrete pavement represents the changing point between the 2018-completed I-269 portion of the roadway, and the 2006-completed I-69 portion (which formed these tiny interstate stubs in preparation for the eventual construction of I-269, 12 years later!). Once more, we see some overhead signs directing drivers either to stay on the roadway or to take Exit 1A or Exit 1B, depending on their destination. Given that we were headed southbound to Hernando, we took Exit 1A.
As we did the "loop-de-loop" down Exit 1A, I tried to capture this shot showing the multiple overpass bridges here at the I-55/I-69/I-269/MS 304 interchange, but unfortunately it blurred on me :( I decided to keep it in this post regardless, however, in the hopes that you can still kinda make out the scene even despite the blur.
Here are a couple of views from the southbound connector-distributor lane, before merging back onto I-55. Additionally, shown below, I continued taking pictures as we took familiar Exit 280 into Hernando, just for the heck of it :P Of interest there is the very last photo below, which shows the off-ramp into Hernando; that was widened to three lanes in just the past few years or so. Also worth noting is that Commerce Street - Exit 280 - is the former route of MS 304, prior to 304 being rerouted to run concurrently with I-69 (west of I-55) and I-269 (east of I-55). As you can see in that third image, Commerce is now signed as "Scenic Route 304."
So there you have it: a photographic tour of I-269's grand opening weekend! A different subject for the blog, but one that I hope you liked nonetheless :) Again, if you're interested in this "road geek" stuff, I don't necessarily intend to feature any additional posts in this vein in the future, but I do recommend you check out those sources I linked to a little bit earlier in this post. And finally, for those interested, I'll also be posting just a handful more road-related images to my flickr account
this Tuesday, documenting some additional recent MDOT work - this time, at the Goodman Road (MS 302) interchange with I-55. That construction has been ongoing for several months, and looks to just now be wrapping up, right in time for the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday shopping crowds that that busy roadway can expect later this week!
Speaking of Thanksgiving... hope yours is happy, and spent with people you care about and who care about you! As always, I'm thankful for your readership :) Until next time, stay warm, don't eat too much on Thursday, drive safely on Friday, and have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!