Talk Of I-14 Grows – But Still Just Talk

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Roughly 25 miles of Texas interstate highway has started making a stir in social media in Georgia and Alabama. Interstate 14 currently runs between Fort Hood and Belton Texas, just north of the Austin metro area. A few students from Georgia and Alabama operating at the “Youth Infrastructure Coalition” have dusted off old plans and are promoting a corridor that would run from Texas to Augusta Georgia, passing through Columbus and Macon along the way.

The idea of a group of students launching a multi-year, multi-billion dollar infrastructure project can’t be dismissed out of hand. It was Georgia Tech graduate student that conceived the idea of Atlanta’s Beltline – a proposed transit and trail loop around the city’s inner core – in 1999. Another major piece of right of way was acquired last week, as the project works toward a projected 2030 build out.

The timeline of the Beltline build out should be a cautionary tale to anyone getting overly excited about the prospect of new interstates in rural Georgia. These projects are incredibly expensive. The process to acquire right of way is lengthy and legally tedious. Then, there is the federal permitting process, which can take a decade or longer. It’s entirely possible that those in the Youth Infrastructure Coalition could be middle aged or beyond before they could drive on the road they are promoting. Such is the nature of large infrastructure projects.

This is, of course, assuming two major ingredients that are not yet part of the I-24 mix can be attained. There’s currently a lack of political will toward Georgia adopting the project. There’s also a lack of funding.

It was actually a Georgia politician, the late Congressman Charlie Norwood, that originally floated the idea of the interstate corridor. A few studies have been conducted here and there. Georgia, however, decided for the more cost effective non-interstate approach to finish the Fall Line Freeway covering the same route. It’s a multi-lane highway corridor, but lacks the limited access control to qualify as a full interstate highway.

It should not be assumed that it’s the folks in Atlanta that kept the Fall Line Freeway from being completed as an interstate highway. Influential people in towns along the route have fears that an interstate would create bypasses to their communities, letting a bit of their commerce speed by them at 70 miles per hour.

Then, there’s the Columbus connection. Columbus’ Mayor and other leaders are currently proposing a high speed rail network to connect the city to Atlanta. In a state with limited transportation funds to fulfill unlimited needs, it’s hard to imagine both projects being prioritized.

Which brings us to that funding issue. While Georgia passed HB 170 in 2015 and added almost $1 Billion per year in new funding for road and bridges, much of that money is dedicated to replacing Georgia’s aging bridges over the next two decades, with additional money being used to upgrade existing freeways throughout the state in high traffic corridors.

The parts of rural Georgia without interstates were not left out of the strategic plans with the new funds, however. The Governor’s Road Improvement Program (GRIP) should be able to be completed over the next decade with these funds. The Fall Line Freeway was one of the earlier projects under this plan. Current projects include making highways 441 and 1 full north-south corridors though eastern Georgia, and a direct connection from Albany to Valdosta, among other improvements.

And yet, the G in GRIP stands for Governor. Georgia is about to have a new one of those, and as such, all plans can change.

Those of us in Metro Atlanta would likely appreciate the idea of expanded freight corridors to move large trucks around Atlanta before they ever approach I-285. Parts of Rural Georgia would appreciate the opportunity to connect more directly with the Ports.

The question with all of these projects that people desire is are they also willing to pay even more for them. Drawing pictures to connect cities on a map is relatively easy. Finding the political will to execute and fund those dreams, quite a bit harder.

17
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
8 Comment threads
9 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
10 Comment authors
John Vestalgt7348baugusta52alpha maleScottNAtlanta Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
drjay
drjay

a quick perusal of this route looks like it might take an hour or so off what will now be periodic trips to starkville…i wish this was a thing…

Pete Gibbons
Pete Gibbons

I-3 would be a much better use of resources. Savannah to Knoxville via Augusta and N GA. That’d give an area without, direct access to the port and make us a viable option for industry. It would also create a second corridor north for traffic and alleviate traffic going through Atlanta.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

I-3 would be on the West Coast, right? I would think that a new North-South interstate would be I-93 or some other odd number.

drjay
drjay

if they followed the normal numbering patterns, then yes 3 should be on the west coast—i don’t know why this one gets to be an exception, but it would be I3 with the 3rd ID stationed near savannah as it’s namesake…

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta
armanidog
armanidog

West from Savannah on I-16, north through Statesboro to Augusta on Hwy 25 (which is a divided 4 lanes and a speed limit of 65 mph), east on I-20 to Columbia, SC which has I-26 to Asheville and I-40 to Knoxville covers that route.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

I-3 will never be built for several reasons. 1. The people in the Mountains dont want it, and will fight it tooth and nail. It has been met with widespread disdain. 2. It would never pass environmental scrutiny. 3. It is wildly more expensive to run a freeway through mountainous terrain (I-40 is a great example…they have been working on that stretch from Greensboro to Knoxville since I was in college) From what I have read, one of the things that would make I-14 desirable (not I-24…I think that was a typo) is that most of the road is already… Read more »

alpha male
alpha male

Rick Allen, not Jody Hice, represents the vast majority of metro Augusta. Hice represents only a small slice.

Allen,isakson and Perdue would not nix this project just because Bishop reps a portion of the route. Especially give the ostensible rationale for this route. Connecting the various DOD installations.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Unless the route dips down significantly from Augusta, the vast majority of the route east of Macon is gonna run through Hice’s district, not Allen’s.
.
Neither Isakson nor Perdue nor Allen have the clout to influence and drive this kind of project. Maybe Isakson, but Perdue and Allen are significantly lacking in “pull.”

augusta52
augusta52

I agree with Scott—getting an Interstate 3 thru the rugged mountains would be difficult—every now and then, there are rockslides on Interstate 40 as it crosses the Great Smokies between Tennessee and North Carolina. And the current drive from Savannah to Knoxville is I-95 to 26, then 26 to Asheville, then 40 to Knoxville. With 14, there does get to be a question of whether “build it and they will come” is true. West of Augusta, you don’t see much development between Thomson (McDuffie County) and Greensboro (Greene County/Lake Oconee) along Interstate 20, and most of Interstate 16 between Macon… Read more »

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

I think the trucking traffic that is westbound bypassing Atlanta would be significant with the ever increasing traffic coming out of the Port of Savannah.
As for rock falls…they cant even prevent those on the new I-75 toll lanes that haven’t even opened yet

gt7348b
gt7348b

FYI – I-93 and I-91 both already exist. 93 goes through Boston into New Hampshire and 91 runs through Connecticut

gt7348b
gt7348b

GDOT, Well the State Toll Authority at the time, did look at a toll road between Chattanooga, Rome, Columbus and Albany to Florida back in the early 70s called the West Georgia Tollway. Traffic wasn’t sufficient to justify anything except 195. I believe they examined it again back when the P3 law was passed about 10 years ago and reached the same conclusion.

John Vestal
John Vestal

All I know is you still have to go thru Topeka to get to Albany from Statesboro.

augusta52
augusta52

Scott, maybe in lieu of 14 in Georgia, extend 16 west to Columbus or to the KIA plant, connect 85.