Has GDOT found its soul on I-16/I-75?

September 29, 2013 

Amazing. Maybe the Georgia Department of Transportation has found its soul after decades of ramrodding projects down various communities’ throats.

After years of debate about plans for the Interstate 75/Interstate 16 interchange, a new report, by Connect Central Georgia, now says the interchange should not be a top GDOT priority.

The report -- with no documentation describing its methodology -- said the interchange’s cost, $164.5 million, outweighed its benefits by a huge margin. Even that estimated cost is lower than the $300 million projected earlier.

What changed? According to GDOT, about 9,000 cargo trucks still travel I-16 through Macon daily. Plans are still moving forward to deepen the Port of Savannah to prepare it for larger cargo tankers that will push through a wider and deeper Panama Canal. That, according to prior GDOT speculation, would increase cargo traffic through Macon.

This is not the first time the I-16/I-75 interchange has been put on the back burner. In 2008, former GDOT Commissioner Gena Evans pushed the project back to 2018. Did the coalition of 53 civic groups, art foundations, museums, advocacy groups, publications and neighborhood groups turn the tide? No, the biggest reason behind GDOT’s change of heart is money.

The I-16/I-75 interchange was on the list of projects to be funded by the transportation special local option sales tax that was defeated in the summer of 2012

The project was over-designed from the start, resembling a modern-day version of Atlanta’s Spaghetti Junction. GDOT’s report also said that even a rebuilt interchange would be swamped by traffic in the next couple of decades.

On another aspect of the project, GDOT is to be congratulated for its efforts to mitigate damage road work would cause in the Pleasant Hill community. A difficult task that has taken years of work by the neighborhood and GDOT

Many members of the community are still angry about damage wrought 50 years ago by the construction of I-75. Old wounds heal slowly, if at all.

Hopefully this community and others will see a kinder, gentler GDOT moving forward.

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