Planning, funding, building interstate roads takes time
The Chinese saying that the longest journey begins with a single step certainly applies to building highways in America.
And they require great sums of money.
With Congress and the president jousting over the final amount in a nearly-$3 billion highway funding bill, Congress is getting ready to allot nearly $300 million for construction, which isn't much, considering the Memphis-to-Atlanta highway will cost a couple billion.
The idea, that once the money starts flowing from this trickle larger amounts will follow, has Southern politicians ready to take that first step.
Led by Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi seem interested in building two intersecting interstates, one that stretches from Knoxville to Savannah and another from Augusta to Columbus and across Alabama near Montgomery, ending at Natchez.
Georgia appears the biggest winner in such a plan, but each state gets something that interests its leaders.
Alabama would get an east-west route that opens the impoverished Black Belt to more industry and commerce.
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, is a member of the committee that directs highway funds. He says that joining forces makes for good political and economic sense.
That's true, and is one reason that the Memphis to Atlanta highway continues to survive year after year. But that road doesn't appear to have the enthusiasm in Georgia that it does in Alabama. It is extremely important to North Mississippi and to the Tennessee Valley.
As the four-state plan for interstates goes forward, it will be good to remember that the same four share in the Memphis-to-Atlanta route, also, and that it's already taken several steps along a long journey.