Interstate 75 to be overwhelmed with congestion by 2040

mstucka@macon.comFebruary 21, 2013 

On a map of expected congestion traffic on Interstate 75 a few decades from now, the whole stretch between McDonough and Macon is colored red. Red like danger. Red like the brake lights from stop-and-go traffic. Red like the faces of frustrated car and truck drivers unable to keep moving.

A state study under way, looking at what’s called I-75 South, aims to try to figure out ways to ease the crunch on the interstates. Officials haven’t started to evaluate possible solutions yet, but could consider alternatives as diverse as improving capacity on roads parallel to the interstate, or making exits more efficient, said Beverly Davis, a consultant with Reynolds, Smith and Hills Inc. who is helping the state with the study.

“I think it’s going to be quite the combination (of fixes) to address the issues,” Davis said Thursday after a meeting at Macon’s offices of the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The congestion assessments are based on the idea that budgeted improvements, but no others, would be done in the area. Under those projections, I-75 traffic volumes would exceed 92 percent of the road’s capacity, slowing traffic. Such congestion would be seen even on a planned rebuilding of the Interstate 75-Interstate 16 interchange. Traffic models from around Macon and Atlanta, as well as a statewide model, were used.

Jim Thomas, executive director for Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission, confirmed his office’s projections show the Interstate 16 to I-75 interchange would be flooded with traffic within a few decades, even if the interchange is rebuilt. Thomas said more traffic will hit both those interstate highways.

“As they continue to grow, the effect on that interchange increases,” Thomas said Thursday.

That thought was echoed by Steve Coté, consultant project manager for the study.

“You’re going to be putting so many more cars and trucks on by 2040,” Coté said during the meeting.

Officials from local governments along the highway -- as far flung as McDonough to Warner Robins -- suggested the planners ought to look at other big-picture ideas that would affect the I-75 corridor, including plans for a better route between Macon and LaGrange. That proposal was favored in a state freight study and is likely to be discussed at more length in the upcoming Connect Central Georgia report.

The I-75 South Corridor report is scheduled to begin weighing potential recommendations in June, with a final report due by November.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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