Stop I-3 Coalition Press Release

For immediate release July 26, 2005

Civic and conservation organizations and hundreds of individuals across the mountains of north Georgia and Western North Carolina have organized to counter a proposed new interstate that would cut through the heart of their farms, homes and businesses.

The Stop I-3 Coalition represents a growing confederation of local county groups and interested citizens who have grave doubts about the value of the new interstate proposal wending its way through the halls of Congress.

“Evidently, our Congressmen and State officials, in an attempt to solve one problem, have created another,” said Elizabeth Wells, spokeswoman for the organization. “New ways must be found to involve communities which are impacted by decisions made on a federal and state level. This involvement needs to be early on in the conception process.

“Without inclusion, mistrust is created and that too often leads to suspicion of dishonesty,” she said. “This describes the current state of affairs here in the beautiful Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains. We are now faced with the possibility of an interstate being cut through, not only what some say are the oldest mountains in the world, but possibly destroying a way of life for entire cultural, human, animal and plant populations.

“Interstates and mountains do not mix,” she continued.

“How can our usually fiscally conservative elected officials even consider $25 million dollars a mile for an unwanted highway which is only a few miles shorter than existing routes? What is the real agenda here?

Wells added: “We in the STOP I-3 Coalition are willing to come to the table to listen and to speak. We are in hopes our elected officials will do the same. Actually, this is the only way true resolution can be reached.”

To date, the Stop I-3 Coalition has assembled support from many residents and groups across the entire tier of the Southern Appalachians, including Stephens, Habersham, White, Rabun, Towns, Union and Gilmer counties in Georgia; Macon, Jackson, Clay, Cherokee, Graham and Buncombe counties in North Carolina; and Oconee County, in South Carolina’s Upcountry.

Individual members of this Stop I-3 coalition are concerned about the detrimental effects of a huge highway. County Commissions in Habersham and Rabun Counties have made strong statements opposing construction of I-3. The growing number of opponents cite negative impacts on recreational tourism, historical and archeological sites, national forests, wildlife – an entire way of life that works in harmony with natural resources and relies on these resources for its economic base.

For further information, contact Elizabeth Wells at

Interstate 3 — Background

The idea for the proposed new Interstate 3 across north Georgia and Western North Carolina was initiated last year in legislation sponsored in the House by Max Burns, former Congressman from Augusta, and in the Senate by former U.S. Senator Zell Miller.

Following Burns’ election defeat in Nov. 2004 and Miller’s retirement, the interstate proposals were picked up by U.S. Representative Charlie Norwood and U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.

The latest push for Interstate 3 was a rider to the Federal Highway Construction Bill, which passed both the House and Senate. This legislation would finance a U.S. Department of Transportation study of possible routes and projected costs for Interstate 3 as well as Interstate 14 across south Georgia.

Initial highway routes propose Interstate 3 running from Savannah to Augusta, then northwest through the heart of the Southern Appalachian Mountains to Knoxville, Tennessee. Interstate 14 would run across the Deep South from Augusta west to Natchez, Mississippi.

If a House-Senate conference committee resolves differences in the funding allocations of this huge highway spending bill this summer, it will be go to President Bush for his signature and become law.

Meanwhile, the State of Georgia has taken the supportive step of quietly allocating $100,000 of state taxpayers’ money to fund a private consortium of vested interests -logistics and interstate industrial firms -to promote both roads.

Interstate 3 – The Routes

The preliminary and ruinous route proposed for Interstate 3, authored by Rep. Norwood, runs from Augusta to Toccoa via the U.S. 17 corridor and from there up the same corridor through Habersham, White and Towns counties and then on up into North Carolina.

From there, it would hook up to the U.S. 129 corridor to Maryville and Knoxville, Tenessee. Even proponents of the huge new interstate acknowledge that this route is only a starting point for discussion. Other possible routes include:

  • Access to the mountains via Oconee County in South Carolina (home to a working Duke Power Co. nuclear power plant) and from there across the Nantahala National Forest to Tennessee.
  • Access directly north along the State Route 23 / U.S. 441 corridor in Hall, Habersham and Rabun counties, and from there into Macon and Clay Counties, N.C. Some are quick to point out that the Georgia Department of Transportation is already in process of completing the four-laning of U.S. 441 in Rabun, from Tallulah Falls to the North Carolina line. U.S. 441 currently is the only major route in the “National Highway System” in this part of north Georgia.
  • Access to the mountains from further West, first by creating a new “Northern Arc” well northward of its previous incarnation, and from there heading northward through Union, Fannin or Gilmer counties, Georgia.

Interstate 3 – Impacts

Whatever the final route for this huge new interstate, it would forever ruin the landscape of a mountain area that is benefiting from an economic renaissance based on small farms, small business, tourism, and manageable, high-tech and broadband-based service economies. The impacts would be huge, because: * By some estimates, a new Interstate 3 would gobble up better than 1,000 feet of right-of-way, counting necessary access roads – or better than 120 acres of land per mile of new roadway.

* By some preliminary estimates construction would cost in excess of $25 million per mile, and more in some sensitive watersheds and mountain areas.

* The route for Interstate 3 would take over huge amounts of the Chattahoochee, Nantahala and Cherokee National Forests, leapfrog the Appalachian Trail and further impact any number of Congressionally-designated Wilderness areas as well as the fabled Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

* The billions of dollars that would be required to build these interstate connectors would balloon the federal budget deficit to unconscionable levels.

* The route for Interstate 3, while touted for transport of nuclear industry material by its proponents, could pose a new and dangerous threat to homeland security at a time of national peril. Running nuclear material across the most isolated swath of Southern Appalachia will prove a huge temptation to international terrorists.