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Planned Road Upgrades Reveal Scale of New Mazda/Toyota Plant

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Mazda and Toyota have been working on a joint manufacturing plant in Alabama for some time. However, as the companies have been working on the $1.6 billion facility, covering hundreds of acres of space, it’s somewhat hard to visualize how big the venture is. Paul Gattis from, though, offers us a good frame of reference: the plans for Old Highway 20.

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Old Highway 20 is currently a long, low-traffic two-lane road that forms the southern border for the Mazda-Toyota plant campus. Near one end, it crosses a railroad line, with a pair of low-key gates for when a train passes. There isn’t any real shoulder, and certainly no curb — the edges just fall away into the fields on either side.

According to Huntsville officials, that quiet, country road will soon turn into a five-lane highway. This comes complete with a grand, $18 million overpass to carry traffic over the railroad line, which will itself become a vital part of plant infrastructure.

Kathy Martin, director of the Huntsville engineering department, told Gattis, “Old Highway 20 is going to be a five-lane curb-and-gutter road and we definitely do not want an at-grade crossing right there. So we’re going to build an overpass.” Huntsville has applied for an $8 million grant from the US Department of Transportation to help defray the cost, and according to Martin is working with Norfolk Southern Rail on the overpass.

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Partly, this is also to fix a growing dangerous situation. U.S. Representative Mo Brooks from Huntsville said in a statement, “It is important our community stay ahead of possible safety and congestion problems resulting from our rapid growth,” adding, “The intersection [of Old Highway 20 and the Norfolk Rail Line] has already proven to be hazardous with 61 accidents reported since 2009.” He praised Huntsville for taking action to head off this hazardous situation as the plant goes up.

As a reminder, we have discussed before that the Mazda-Toyota plant will employ 4,000 people, with enormous manufacturing capacity of about 300,000 units. For Mazda, this is for a new, unrevealed crossover, while for Toyota, it is for a new Camry. If all goes to plan, the companies will start construction next year, and start rolling out vehicles in 2021.

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