I-3 and I-14

Last year Congress initiated a study of I-3 (which would run from Savannah to Augusta and on to Knoxville), and I-14 (which would run through Augusta to Macon through Columbus and eventually end up in Austin, TX).

According to a Tom Baxter article dated August 22, 2005, the initial proposal for these two interstates came from then Congressman Max Burns:

Burns, a Republican who lost his west Georgia congressional seat last year to Democrat John Barrow, said the original idea for the two interstates sprang from a study of Black Belt poverty commissioned by Miller and conducted by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute. I-14 would follow a path across the Black Belt through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

The article continues:

Besides alleviating Atlanta’s traffic, Burns maintains the interstates would bring economic benefits to rural areas that have lagged behind Atlanta and other thriving Southern cities. Some businesses that would benefit from more trucking routes, including Atlanta-based Home Depot and Knoxville-based Goody’s Family Clothing, have endorsed the interstate proposal.

“You come back to the fundamental fact that most of the development takes place along the interstate corridors,” said Burns, who now works in Washington for Thelen, Reid and Priest, a national law firm specializing in government infrastructure contracts and construction projects.

Barrow has endorsed his former opponent’s proposal, but Burns, who is planning another bid for Congress, has remained close to the effort, monitoring its progress through his Republican colleague, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who sits on the House Transportation Committee.

I imagine this will be an issue in the Burns/Barrow rematch. However, the cost of building these interstates will be enormous, and with the Federal Government running large deficits, it’s hard to see these projects getting off the ground any time soon. Perhaps it’s time to consider another funding source for such projects.

Public/private partnerships received a black eye recently after an initial proposal by the Parkway Group was shot down. The proposal would have allowed the Parkway Group to use private funds to make improvements along Hwy 316 and repay the investors through a toll.

Despite this rejection, the idea of private funds building needed roads and recouping their investment through tolls has merit. Market forces could be brought to bear on the building of roads. In other words, private individuals would only invest their money on projects likely to be popular with drivers. The investors would be exposed to the risk of a boondoggle, not the taxpayers. In considering the building of I-3 and I-14, I hope this funding mechanism receives serious consideration.

For background information on public/private transportation projects, read this article.