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AL 167/FL 79, The Check-valve Tourism and Hurricane Evacuation Route
By Tim Brooks, Thursday, 15 January 2015
Alabama state highway 167 was born of Dothan, Alabama opposition to the comprehensive 4-laning of U.S. 231. The proposed U.S. 231 4-laning was the future equivalent of an interstate through southeast Alabama pre-1970s. AL 167 was proposed as an alternate route from Montgomery, Alabama to Panama City/Panama City Beach, Florida. Dothan officials eventually agreed to construction of Ross Clark Circle, a 4-laned complete circular bypass that would become part of 4-laned U.S. 231 from Montgomery to Panama City.
From pre-1970s maps of the highways in Coffee County Alabama, the flow of highway traffic was through Elba. To cross the Pea river and create a direct link between Troy, one of the oldest cities in the Wiregrass region of Alabama and Enterprise, the proposed U.S. 231 alternate route created an almost laser beam straight 2-laned highway from Troy and U.S. 231 through Enterprise to the sugar-white beaches of Panama City Beach, Florida.
U.S. 231 was eventually 4-laned from Montgomery to Panama City. Currently U.S. 331 is being 4-laned from Montgomery, AL to Santa Rosa Beach, FL. Alabama's portion stretches from Montgomery to several miles north of Highland Home and Florida is moving forward on building a second bridge over Choctawhatchee bay.
Between U.S. 331 and U.S. 231 is AL 167 which turns into FL 79 that runs from Troy, Alabama/U.S. 231 to Panama City Beach. The growth of the Panama City Beach-to-Destin/Sand Destin Florida corridor combined with the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport just north of Panama City Beach has transformed FL 79 into a growing tourist and hurricane evacuation route. Florida has responded by comprehensively 4-laning FL 79 from Panama City Beach to I-10 Bonifay Florida. The only 2-laned sections of a third hurricane evacuation route will soon be the segment from I-10/Bonifay to Troy Alabama.
The state of Alabama should fast track the 4-laning of AL 167, the Alabama equivalent of FL 79 and complete the 3rd hurricane evacuation option as well as provide a direct 4-laned highway from Troy to Panama City Beach for tourists to relieve traffic on U.S. 231, U.S. 331 while increasing and distributing the volume of tourism traffic from Montgomery to the beaches of the northern Gulf Coast.