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GDOT will not recommend interstate

ALBANY -- Matthew Fowler, assistant state transportation planning administrator for the Georgia Department of Transportation, says the state will not recommend that a new interstate be constructed in Southwest Georgia.

According to GDOT's Southwest Georgia Interstate Study findings, Fowler said the cost of building an interstate would far outweigh the benefits from improving access to existing interstates.

"Interstates, especially in today's economic climate, are very, very expensive," he said. "You have to have benefits that outweigh the costs."

Fowler said the two benefits that the study closely looked at were the economic impact and the travel impact of an interstate to communities in Southwest Georgia.

"These two benefits did not add up to the overall cost," he said. "Out best performing corridor only had .33 percent benefit over the cost."

Fowler said the GDOT study focused on a handful of main corridors: Columbus to Albany to Valdosta, Columbus to Albany to Tifton and Cordele to Albany to Tallahassee, Fla.

According to Fowler, the GDOT study began 18 months ago in response to local officials asking for information on a new interstate.

"We blocked off 32 counties in Southwest Georgia and focused on the needs of those communities," he said. "We looked at upgrading existing roads and improving access to existing intestates such as I-75, I-185, and I-10."

In the study, GDOT collected data on existing and historic traffic volumes on all major roads, researched previous transportation studies, and obtained locally-adopted land-use plans.

"We also based our models on reports of communities projected growth that they gave to us," said Fowler. "We also came up with a model that projected future traffic volumes and areas of congestion."

Fowler said GDOT forecasted to the year 2040 and the one area that showed on the map as having congestion and traffic problems was Georgia Highway 133.

"The good thing is we have existing projects that are in the engineering stage to widen 133," he said.

"If people want an interstate now in would take 30 years worth of dollars saved up to fund an interstate," he said. "That mean for 30 years you could not spend money on anything else."

"The final study should be available on our web site around January," he said.