A federal report details plans for a possible new interstate that would move traffic from Augusta through central Georgia and Alabama to Natchez, Miss.
The 14th Amendment Highway Corridor report, obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, was delivered to Congress on Feb. 3, according to Federal Highway Administration spokesman Doug Hecox. A timeline for further action is unknown.
The report says the new east-west interstate would be more than 600 miles, linking Augusta and Natchez with three other metro areas: Montgomery in Alabama, and Columbus and Macon in Georgia.
A 100-mile segment beginning near Macon would connect to Augusta either at Interstate 20 near exit 183 or at Interstate 520 near Fort Gordon. To connect to I-20, a new highway would be built versus following existing roads through Milledgeville, Sandersville and Wrens to connect with I-520.
No funding for the federal route has been identified. The Federal Highway Administration launched the study to meet a congressional mandate.
A similar report on the 3rd Infantry Division Highway linking Savannah, Augusta, western North Carolina and Knoxville, Tenn., is expected soon. Both interstate routes were first proposed in 2004 by U.S. Rep. Max Burns and other legislators.
In an e-mail statement, Rep. John Barrow said Tuesday he would work to make the reports a reality.
“These interstates would create new transportation routes that avoid the over-congested Atlanta roads, and will be an economic boon for Augusta,” Barrow said.
The 14th Amendment Highway study examined five cost options for a route from Augusta to Natchez. The options ranged from about $296 million to $7.7 billion.
“Although several major Interstate highways pass through the corridor, they are all generally oriented in a north-south direction,” the report states. “There is no single designated east-west Interstate or other major highway that directly connects all five cities.”
Don Grantham, the Georgia Department of Transportation board member for Congressional District 10, said a route between Augusta and Columbus has long been on the minds of Georgians.
“It would be a tremendous asset for moving traffic east to west,” Grantham said.
Moving the proposal from a plan on paper to reality could be long off. Grantham said GDOT just learned of the study Tuesday, and while supportive, had no plans for action.
“I don’t see why our board or our governor’s office would object to it,” he said.
Paul DeCamp, the planning manager for Augusta-Richmond County, served on an expert committee that suggested alternate routes during the study. Economic development was a driving force behind the proposal, as was connecting military bases in Augusta, Warner Robins and Columbus.
“That was a key point in connecting all three communities; making the connections convenient or near each of those military facilities,” DeCamp said.
Associated Press reports contributed to this story.