WaysSouth Voices Newsletter • Summer 2011



The Congressionally mandated study of “the steps and estimated funding necessary to designate and construct a route for the 3rd Infantry Division Highway, extending from Savannah, Georgia, to Knoxville, Tennessee, by way of Augusta, Georgia,” or the I-3 Study, is nearly complete.  It looks more promising than ever that this ill-conceived project will not be built. Since the study began a year ago, WaysSouth’s Executive Director Jim Grode has served as a member of the “Expert Working Group” monitoring and advising the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as it conducts the study. At every step, we’ve worked to protect the Southern Appalachians, and taxpayers’ pockets.

FHWA initially identified four general corridors for I-3 (see the map at http://www.wayssouth.org/campaigns/stop-i-3/resources/initial-routes/ and then analyzed the advantages and drawbacks of  each. It concluded that three of the four corridors had “fatal flaws” in the form of environmental, geographic, political, or other obstacles.

The fourth corridor, Corridor A, roughly runs within Georgia through or near Savannah, Augusta, Athens, Dahlonega, Ellijay, and Chatsworth, before crossing the Tennessee line and joining I-75 near Cleveland on the way to Knoxville. FHWA identified this as the “least bad” of the options and therefore proceeded to the next step, estimating costs, for this option only.

At no time during the study did anyone identify a purpose and need for the highway.

The costs to construct I-3 were estimated for four different design levels ranging from a full interstate to “context sensitive design,” based on average per-mile costs for similar roads. Estimates ranged from $6.1 billion to $560 million. For comparison, the State of Georgia’s entire transportation budget for the years 2011-2014 is $6.9 billion.

During the course of the study, FHWA opened up the lines for public input through email and a series of webinars, and WaysSouth spread the word. Thanks to the enthusiastic response of our supporters, over 95% of the comments FHWA received opposed construction of I-3.

The study has confirmed what we’ve said all along: I-3 is a boondoggle that does not enjoy public support or agency interest, and should not be constructed. At press time, the final report is undergoing departmental review and will be submitted to Congress in the near future. We will let you know when it’s available, and in the meantime check http://www.wayssouth.org/ for updates.