The hub it was meant to be

Interstate proposals would be an economic driver for Augusta

An area resident was looking at proposals for two new interstate highways connecting to Augusta.

“That would change my life,” he said, noting how it would make the drive to Macon faster and easier.

It’s funny what a big difference roads and highways make.

It’s odd how poorly served Augusta is that way.

It is Georgia’s second-largest city, and as the main hive of human activity for miles on the banks of the Savannah and the border of South Carolina, you would think all roads would lead here – particularly as Savannah plans to deepen its port in anticipation of greater ship traffic from a new and improved Panama Canal.

In addition, the routes between military bases in Augusta, Warner Robins, Columbus and Savannah are unnecessarily convoluted. And the interstate system was inspired by national security reasons to begin with.

But try driving to Savannah. Or Macon. Or Columbus. Or Alabama and beyond. Single-lane roads. Poorly marked turns. Dangerous, unfamiliar twists and turns. Hours out of your way. In the early decades of the 21st century, there’s still no good way to get from here to there.

It’s an outrage, really.

It’s holding us back economically, no doubt – and will only stunt our growth even more when cargo traffic increases on the coast. Think of the missed opportunities.

Proposed Interstates 14 (Augusta to Natchez, Miss.) and 3 (Savannah to Knoxville, Tenn.) would make Augusta the hub it was destined to be.

Unfortunately, at this point they are but dreams reduced to paper – reports completed at the request of Congress – with no serious congressional action pending. But this area shouldn’t rest until these projects break ground.

In shrugging off the failure of his stimulus bill to stimulate much of anything outside the government bureaucracy, President Obama joked that “shovel-ready projects” weren’t as shovel-ready as he’d thought. What a shame these projects weren’t. They would breathe new life into the entire Southeast United States and provide all kinds of jobs.

We’ve got an election this year, and the 12th congressional seat is up for grabs – as four Republicans are already vying to replace Democrat incumbent John Barrow in the newly drawn and more Republican-friendly district. No candidate should be given consideration who doesn’t make these interstate projects a top priority – and having them link directly to Augusta.

It would be life-changing for plenty of folks.

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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon