Georgia project named one of nation’s worst “highway boondoggles”

While metro Atlantans will have to pay to use the interstate capacity planned for I-75, I-285 and Ga. 400, the proposed truck-only lanes on I-75 between Macon and Atlanta would be new capacity added at no cost to the freight industry. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM/ March 2016 file photo

 

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in January, a recent state audit found Georgia transportation officials gave the green light to a $2 billion transportation project without clear evidence it was needed.

The project would add 40 miles of trucks-only lanes on I-75 between Macon and McDonough. The audit found such lanes have never been tried on such a scale in the United States, and the Georgia Department of Transportation gave its initial approval “without clear indication that the project is a justified investment.”

The Georgia Department of Audits isn’t the only one questioning the project. Last month the United States Public Interest Research Group – a consumer advocacy group – labeled the I-75 truck lanes one of the nation’s nine biggest “highway boondoggles.” The group criticized governments across the country for spending big money on highway expansions instead of addressing a growing backlog of highway maintenance and repair projects.

GDOT took exception to the state audit, defending its project selection process. Among other things, it noted that after the agency gave initial approval to the truck lanes a consultant found they would reduce vehicle hours of delay in the I-75 corridor by 40 percent.

When asked about the “boondoggle” designation, GDOT spokesman Scott Higley issued a statement Tuesday that said the I-75 truck lanes are needed.

“The project is necessary because the expansion of the Port of Savannah is projected to significantly increase transportation and delivery of goods and services in the already fast-growing southeast corridor, specifically south of Atlanta,” the statement said.

“Increased semi and commercial vehicle congestion along I-75 present potentially serious travel safety, congestion and time efficiency issues for both passenger and commercial vehicle travelers,” the statement said. “Expanding the corridor to remove heavy commercial vehicles from general purpose lanes will decrease direct contact and congestion between passenger vehicles and trucks, providing safer and more efficient travel for both.

“Statistical data shows the chances of fatalities increase significantly when large trucks are involved in accidents,” the statement said. “GDOT’s focus on this project, anticipating significantly increased truck traffic in an already congested corridor, as a safety investment for the traveling public.”


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