The study on the 3rd Infantry Division Highway found “fatal flaws” in three possible corridors, including the one route that passes most directly through Augusta. Because of environmental concerns and opposition from residents of north Georgia mountain counties, the study did not proceed with cost analysis of the routes.
The only complete route studied further runs west of Augusta and east of Athens, Ga. Two alternate branches were suggested for the northern portion of that route — one skirting the western boundaries of the Chattahoochee National Forest and the other crossing through the national forest north of Dahlonega, Ga.
The 435-mile interstate route is projected to cost $4.8 billion.
The Federal Highway Administration launched the study to meet a congressional mandate. Another study delivered to Congress on Feb. 3 was done concurrently on the 14th Amendment Highway to move traffic from Augusta through central Georgia and Alabama to Natchez, Miss.
Both interstate routes were first proposed in 2004 by U.S. Rep. Max Burns and other legislators with the original purpose of connecting military bases and enhancing economic development, especially tourism, to Georgia, North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains.
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.
Don Grantham, the Georgia Department of Transportation board member for the 10th Congressional District, agreed that the 3rd Infantry Highway is not feasible.
“I just don’t see that happening. The conceptual idea might be great, but I don’t think the funding is there,” he said Friday.
Major improvements to U.S. Highway 17 through eastern Georgia from Toccoa to Washington to Wrens and U.S. Highway 25 connecting Augusta, Waynesboro and Statesboro are improving existing traffic arteries, Grantham said.
“That’s going to be a much better artery for the mountain region to Savannah,” he said. “We’re going to see better routes for trucks to come in and out of Savannah based on the port of Savannah and the improvements being made there.”