Talks resume on new interstate linking Augusta-Knoxville

Monday, Aug 23, 2010 9:51 AM
Last updated 9:53 AM
  • Follow Latest News

The Federal Highway Administration is studying a possible new interstate that would connect Savannah and Augusta to Knoxville, Tenn., despite opposition from groups that say the project could destroy pristine lands.

Government spokesman Doug Hecox told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the study of the project, which would be called Interstate 3, started in June, but there's no timeline for the completion.

The administration will use the study as a "resource that would inform discussion," he said.

But, Hecox said, that doesn't necessarily mean the interstate is going to be built. The study will look at routes, costs and impacts on tourism, industry and the environment.

"Its primary function is to determine if a project is feasible," he said.

Executive Director of the Stop I-3 Coalition, Jim Grode, said the interstate would devastate the environment and kill downtown areas as business shifts toward exit ramps.

"This route really serves no legitimate transportation needs," Grode said. "These routes are not going to be quicker or faster."

The proposed interstate stems from legislation introduced in 2004 by then-U.S. Rep. Max Burns, who represented an area of Georgia including Augusta, Savannah and Milledgeville.

Burns legislation sought to connect the two biggest cities in his district — Savannah and Augusta — with a route that would extend into northern Georgia and Tennessee. The route number was chosen to honor the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division's involvement in the Iraq war. The unit is based at Fort Stewart near Savannah.

The highway would connect Savannah, Augusta and Knoxville using existing corridors when possible. Based on that, the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition has mapped out potential routes showing five paths for the superhighway, which would run north of Interstate 85.

The westernmost route runs through Toccoa and Clarkesville before overlapping U.S. Highway 76 to Chatsworth. The route then veers north on U.S. Highway 411 into Tennessee, linking with Interstate 75 at Cleveland.

Eastern routes show I-3 possibly running north along U.S. 441 or state routes 11, 28 and 107 near Walhalla, Ga., before crossing into North Carolina and skirting the west side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Hecox said the study would only show options for the route. If the project moves forward, the states involved would make the final choice, he said.

There is no time frame on the study, but Hecox said he hopes the results would be in by the end of 2011.

Erik Brinke, chairman of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Cherokee County, N.C., Economic Development Commission, said the area needs an interstate, but he's unsure if I-3's north-south route is the solution.

The area really needs an east-west interstate linking Chattanooga; Asheville, N.C.; and all the communities in between, Brinke said. Officials in Tennessee and North Carolina have discussed the route — the so-called Corridor K — for decades.

"Folks in this area are generally opposed to the I-3 corridor," Brinke said. "I just don't have a comfort level that Interstate 3 would accomplish (what another route would), although I admit any interstate through our area would help economically."

___

Comments (54) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 08/23/10 - 01:05 pm
0
0
I'd like to see the Chronicle

I'd like to see the Chronicle take a firm position supporting the highway.

tckr1983
365
Points
tckr1983 08/23/10 - 01:19 pm
0
0
I don't buy the

I don't buy the environmentalist's argument that I-3 construction will destroy mother nature in a potential path to Knoxville. They're using already existing roads aren't they? They might be widened, but they're not going rambling through the countryside, laying waste to any tree potentially mocking a man/machine with a chainsaw in tow...

My dads family is from Chilhowie, Virginia (north of Bristol on I-81) and when I-26 was extended throught the NC/TN mountains it did very little to take away from the appalachian's, made the trip MUCH shorter and connected Asheville to the thriving metropolis' of Mars Hill, Erwin, Johnson City and Kingsport... Savannah, Augusta, Knoxville/Greenville... Mars Hill, Erwin, Johnson City and Kingsport...

I-3 makes more sense than many of the current proposed interstates (extending I-20 to Wilmington, Chattanooga-Knoxville interstate) as Savannah is one of the biggest ports in the nation and for it not to be connected to Georgia's second largest city by an interstate is... not smart.

This needs to be done and the Interstate needs to run as close as possible to downtown, as that's what businesses are looking for, fast access to interstates and airports via those roads. This would be a big deal to all 3 cities involved.

mattmesa
0
Points
mattmesa 08/23/10 - 01:27 pm
0
0
Connection to I-95 good god

Connection to I-95 good god please! Knoxville really? Come on!

TZC
0
Points
TZC 08/23/10 - 01:34 pm
0
0
As someone who made a recent

As someone who made a recent trip from Knoxville to Augusta recently, it is not an easy route and Augusta would definitely benefit if this goes through. We may be potentially moving to the area. I sincerely hope that this happens...and fast.

tckr1983
365
Points
tckr1983 08/23/10 - 01:38 pm
0
0
Why not Knoxville? It's a

Why not Knoxville? It's a north-south connector that is much needed and also junctions with I-85 to bring more traffic to I-3. Knoxville like Greenville has a MSA of 650,000+ and a CSA of over 1million as of 2007. Even if I-3 goes to Greenville instead... Knoxville will have an interstate eventually coming south, just too much land in between current north/south interstates, its just not efficient.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/23/10 - 02:05 pm
0
0
If you simply fill in the

If you simply fill in the gaps of existing infrastructure by building an interstate from Augusta, roughly following US 25 and hooking up with I26 near the I326 junction then you have your northsouth interstate.. and actually it is a quicker route to Knoxville area than building a whole new interstate through northeast Georgia and building new roads through the mountins (do you realize how expensive that is?) The route thru SC is much easier to construct on.. and actually more direct (if you go north south.. then you have to go thru SC) Not to mention this route links more metro areas together... and that's what matters most from a development standpoint.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/23/10 - 02:07 pm
0
0
But really the most important

But really the most important for Augusta economically, is having a true interstate toward Savannah and linking up with I95.. this would also give Augusta a vital transportation link to Florida, which currently must be done on secondary highways.

tckr1983
365
Points
tckr1983 08/23/10 - 02:27 pm
0
0
Emery- How is an interstate

Emery-

How is an interstate from Augusta-Greenville-Knoxville faster than a direct interstate from Augusta-Knoxville? Like I said, my dads family is from Virginia, we saw 26 being built in NC/TN every time we drove up. The construction of 26 was VERY much worth it. I'm just tired of seeing Augusta settling on things, if you're going to build an interstate... build a interstate that will benefit Augusta's future not Greenville's. The Greenville/Spartanburg/Anderson metro would go a short distance down 85 then onto I-3 and down to the Atlantic.

I-3 between Augusta and Knoxville would be similar directionally to Atlanta and Chattanooga, which is still North/South.

august1
0
Points
august1 08/23/10 - 02:31 pm
0
0
YES !!! We need this really

YES !!! We need this really bad!!! The tree-huggers will probably get their way though. Riverman1 is exactly right. Paul Broun will not commit !

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/23/10 - 03:16 pm
0
0
tckr.. to answer your

tckr.. to answer your questions.. 1st of all just get out a road map.. look at the proposed route.. none of the proposals is a straight line to knoxville.. that cannot be done first of all because it would have to go striaght through Smokey Mountain Natl park, any route would have to go around it, either to the east or to the west. A western route would be snakey and would be much longer than simply connecting Augusta to I26.. The I26 option gives Augusta pretty much the most direct route it would be able to get to Knoxville, and it would involve 1/3 of the infrastructure to build.. and you are only 2 states would be involved in the process.. that would lessen the buruaecracy.. and speed things up. Plus it is really more important that Augusta has a direct interstate link to the growing SC upstate region than to Knoxville. Once you are in Asheville, you can easily access Knoxville and the smokey mountain region via I40. The bottom lim\ne, I26 option is cheaper, faster to build and will have greater economic impact on Augusta.

OJP
7777
Points
OJP 08/23/10 - 03:20 pm
0
0
Count me as another in favor

Count me as another in favor of I-3.

justthefacts
25478
Points
justthefacts 08/23/10 - 03:20 pm
0
0
Sure, it would be nice, but

Sure, it would be nice, but at some point, we just have to stop spending our kids money....don't we?

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 08/23/10 - 03:20 pm
0
0
Emery, there was one problem

Emery, there was one problem with that route. The I-40 bottle neck at Asheville is apparently one of the worst in the nation. The proposed N. Georgia route was supposed to alleviate it. Still, it seems to me that portion of I-40 could be fixed to alleviate the traffic much cheaper than building through the mountains. Either way, I'll take it.

tckr1983
365
Points
tckr1983 08/23/10 - 04:07 pm
0
0
Look at your map again... One

Look at your map again... One of the options to Knoxville is skirting the west end of the park (NC28/TN129), and is much more of a direct line than the Greenville option. There is NO part of going through Greenville that is straight... Once you get to Greenville, it's 30+ mins north to spartanburg (I-26), up to Asheville (I-40), West for 30 mins then north almost 2 hours to I-81 and another hour West to Knoxville. That's hardly straight...

Either option is viable and impactful to the economy. I'm in the belief that if I-3 is driven further west, an interstate will be built between Greenville and Augusta one day anyway with the added traffic/freight around the corridor from I-3.

I'm just glad it's being discussed again.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/23/10 - 06:28 pm
0
0
And exactly how many folks

And exactly how many folks drive between Augusta and Knoxville routinely enough to warrant a new interstate of this size?

Ushouldnthave
0
Points
Ushouldnthave 08/23/10 - 06:30 pm
0
0
I love the current drive to

I love the current drive to Knoxville through the Great Smokies. Some drives are meant to be slow and scenic

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 08/23/10 - 08:07 pm
0
0
Ushouldhave, you can still

Ushouldhave, you can still take your slow and scenic drive if you want while others take the fast road.

Indigo
4
Points
Indigo 08/23/10 - 08:10 pm
0
0
Land is being purchased as we

Land is being purchased as we speak for future ramps and exits......right Carl?

KSL
144596
Points
KSL 08/23/10 - 08:10 pm
0
0
Good point, River.

Good point, River.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 08/24/10 - 05:28 am
0
0
Just what is in Knoxville,

Just what is in Knoxville, that would make people from Savanna and Augusta want to head there on a routine basis? BTW the north interstate is about an hour away in Columbia. My gosh, do they really understand what it takes to run a highway through the mountains? I believe the highway thru WVA took decades to build and it isn't finished yet.

RoadkiII
6807
Points
RoadkiII 08/24/10 - 07:49 am
0
0
What north/south interstate

What north/south interstate is in Columbia??? Only interstates in Columbia are 20 and 26, both east/west.

RoadkiII
6807
Points
RoadkiII 08/24/10 - 08:08 am
0
0
oops, I forgot about 77. It

oops, I forgot about 77. It hits Columbia too.

RoadkiII
6807
Points
RoadkiII 08/24/10 - 08:10 am
0
0
But I hate to tell you folks

But I hate to tell you folks this, the major cities the interstates hit were major cities BEFORE the interstate system. Eisenhower proposed the interstate system in the 50's.

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 08/24/10 - 10:08 am
0
0
Thinking about the two main

Thinking about the two main routes, if the SC route is taken, this could be the fastest interstate every built. The only problem would be getting the funding to build through the farmland in SC to I-26. If SC can come up with the money...and that's a big if....we could have an interstate from upstate SC to Savannah in a few years. The main project in SC on the boards is a corridor to Myrtle Beach from what I've read and that has their money tied up. I wonder if this federal stimulus money could pay the state portion for I-3?

Back to Top
loading...
Top headlines

Ex-SC Gov. Edwards dies

CHARLESTON, S.C. - James B. Edwards, South Carolina's first Republican governor since Reconstruction and later energy secretary for two years in the Reagan administration, has died.
Search Augusta jobs