Battle of the Interstate

So there’s this proposed interstate. It’ll connect Savannah with Knoxville, TN via Augusta.

Nathan Deal supports it.

Roy Barnes does not β€” at least not without further study.

I say bring it. It’ll make David Shafer’s planned invasion of Tennessee easier to pull off.


  1. Junius says:

    I think Roy just got my vote. Another massive Federal spending project which will do untold damage to the N. Ga. mountains, at best bring more sprawl development or, at worst, just be a perpetual tax sucker like I-16.

  2. View from Brookhaven says:

    “March to the sea on I-3!” would make for a nice tag, methinks.

    Before we worry about a Savannah-Knoxville link, can I get a friggin’ interstate between Atlanta-Memphis?

  3. griftdrift says:

    You’ve got one. It’s the I-22 corridor between Birmingham and Memphis. The last time I checked they only had a few miles to go to connect it to I-20.

    • Harry says:

      Atlanta – Paulding – Huntsville – Memphis has been talked about for 50 years, and would prove a much more viable alternative than Knoxville – Savannah. It would provide a direct connection from Georgia to the Tennessee Valley and midsouth. But it will never happen because Alabama and Tennessee evidently don’t like it.

  4. I’m against another interstate through the mountains. We have a place in Hiawassee and I’d rather see that area preserved – not turn into a suburb of Atlanta.

    As for just a Savannah to Augusta “interstate”, I don’t know if that makes sense. There’s already hwy 25 from I16 to Augusta. If a truck is going North, they’ll hop on 95. If they’re going East, they’re still going to have to go through Atlanta whether it’s Savannah > Augusta > Atlanta or Savannah > Macon > Atlanta.

    I would think extending I-16 from Macon to Columbus or Macon to Lagrange would be more important, as it serves as a bypass of Atlanta to get to I-85 / I-65.

    Really though, I would think rail would be a better way to get cargo from the port of Savannah to wherever it’s going. Are the rail lines these days full? I thought I had heard that it was cheaper to ship by rail. It also can run 24 hours a day, whereas truckers have to stop for rest after 11(?) hours unless they’re driving in pairs. There’s no 285 rush hour traffic to sit in. Is there a reason companies are choosing roads over rails?

    • TheEiger says:

      I think it would be nice to have an “inland port” somewhere around Dalton and another in Columbus. Everything coming through Savannah could be put on a train to one of these two destinations and then trucks from their. That would help with some of the traffic issues we face and would also be a relatively cheap fixed compared to other solutions.

    • AubieTurtle says:

      A very rough rule is that water based shipping is ten times more efficient than rail, which is ten times more efficient than truck shipping which is ten times more efficient than air shipping.

      Truck shipping appears to be popular for two related reasons: 1) roads for the most part are owned by the public which heavily subsidizes the cost and 2) because of this subsidy and greater use of eminent domain to obtain the needed right of way, roads go vastly more places than rail. A study I saw recently stated that the US has spent over three quadrillion (3,000 trillion) on roads since the mid 1950s. Rail got nowhere that level of investment and the various gas taxes, license fees, truck fees, etc. have nowhere come close to covering that cost.

      Rail is still used for bulk shipping especially between particular points of generation and use. Coal to power plants is an example of shipping that happens mostly by rail with some river/lake barges in limited situations. For ocean ports, rail connections would make much more sense than roads, while local roads can be used for the last mile(s) of delivery. But for whatever reason, the United States has decided to pick a winner in the cometition between rail and road and heavily subsidized its choice. Not that the rail industry has too much to cry about… in the nineteenth century, the government gave them all kinds of favors.

      • Jeremy Jones says:

        3,000 Trillion? Really? I would suggest getting better sources. I am not even going to take the time to find the correct number for you, but, I can share this with you.

        It is generally accepted the GDP of the US was about 14.5 trillion dollars last year. GDP obviously has an upward trend yearly, though certain economic situations would cause some contraction occasionally.

        If the GDP is 14.5 Trillion, and has been 14.5 Trillion for all previous years, it would still take over 206 years to get to 3000 Trillion. Though a big chunk, I would not guess the Interstate system consumes even half of the GDP. So no, the interstate system has not consumed anything near 3000 Trillion dollars.

        Math is a wonderful thing.

        • AubieTurtle says:

          Good catch. I Googled around and found the source and the graph from which they got their data. It was simply a case of them misreading the legend on the Y axis and getting 3,000 trillion rather than 3,000 billion. (Of course, that might have been intentional but I’m guessing not)

          My original point of so much money and government intervention is poured into one particular transportation system that it guarantees a particular outcome stands… though I’m red faced at not having done a mental sanity check against the number, especially one that was off by so many orders of magnitude. But at least my web search confirms that it was a GIGO error rather than my brain getting old. πŸ™‚

          • Jeremy Jones says:

            “My original point of so much money….”

            I agree. I also assumed you knew better, but I certainly did not want that number standing out there for lesser minds to read and start repeating!

  5. seenbetrdayz, Ph.D. says:

    Does anyone even remember why we have an interstate system? It’s not so you can take trips to the beach really quickly. It’s not so you can get to work on time. It’s not so you can go into debt with projects that take 20 years to finish with the meager hopes of bringing jobs to any particular area.

    I’ll give you a hint:


    • TheEiger says:

      That’s right. And times change. Our economy has changed since the end of WWII and we can also use our infrastructure for other things, such as transporting goods instead of tanks. Just because it was built over 60 years ago doesn’t mean that the interstate system is not vital to our economy. Everyone complains about solutions to our states transportation problems, yet when a solution is provided everyone tears it down without an alternative. I’m more of a fan of transporting goods from Savannah by rail, but I think that I -3 would be a great step to helping alleviate the traffic pressure in Atlanta.

    • Errm… is this your recommendation that we move away from controlled access highways (interstates) and go back to traffic light filled roads like hwy 78 and 29? I don’t care who proposed Interstates… they are a necessary component of any modern day transportation system.

    • MSBassSinger says:

      “Does anyone even remember why we have an interstate system?”
      It was originally called the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (Public Law 84-627). The idea was that, besides public use during peacetime, in the event of war on or near the continental US, we would have highways capable of transporting, en masse, military land-based vehicles (tanks, trucks, etc.) without having to deal with stoplights, stop signs, and every little sleepy borough on the Federal highways. That depended, of course, on having the air support to keep enemy aircraft from blasting the road surfaces to bits and the ground support to keep out guerrilla sabotage teams. In 1956, that was consider “quick response”.

      • seenbetrdayz, Ph.D. says:

        You win, sir. And you hit on exactly why we don’t see more rail systems. Using yours and AubieTurtle’s language, ‘indirect subsidies,’ of road transportation over rail transportation have brought us to where we are today. That’s without even mentioning the “politicalization” of the transporation issue. If Roy were for it, Deal would be against it. Since Deal is for it, Roy is against it. And we wonder why nothing gets done.

        But the interstate system started out as a defense issue. I’m not saying it was ever “not political”, but perhaps it is (was?) somewhat easier to get people to agree on the issue of national defense than to work around all the NIMBY, or “I want it running through my town/mountains/house ” because people can’t handle traffic. So if we ever want to see any kind of competitive rail system in the U.S., we’ll have to stop subsidizing transportation by building an interstate every time we turn around (we can’t even afford/finish the ones we’ve already started, thanks to reckless spending in all areas of government).

        It’s interesting to note, that when we wanted to move troops/supplies around during WWII, what did troops ride on?

        Trains. β€”But government changed its mind and decided it was going to start subsidizing the highway freight industry over the rail industry, as it had for nearly a century or more before.

        Competition is the only way you’d find a real balance. But so long as one form of transportation is taxpayer-funded while the other is not, there’s not going to be competition. And be sure that involvement of tax-dollars will make it a political issue. (i.e. nothing will get done).

    • Junius says:

      I would argue the later is more sustainable investment over the long term and certainly better from a national security standpoint.

      • MSBassSinger says:

        Having traditional rail carry goods intercity and trucks carry them intracity would lower transportation costs.

        As to why trucks replaced trains – in addition to the point on how the Interstate highway system made truck transportation more cost competitive via indirect subsidy, there was also the issue of railway worker unions doing to the railways what the auto unions have done to auto manufacturing in the US.

        I realize that the big rigs are so ingrained into the transportation system that we are not likely to see a shift back to railways, but I would be for it if we can find a free market way to do so.

        • Yep. I’ve got a friend that drives a truck for a living. I’m certainly not trying to put anyone out of a job. I’m just thinking from a cost and logistics perspective, it would make more sense to do as you said – trucks around cities / trains between them.

  6. Junius says:

    Good point. That is the only thing that seems to support this road (at least the Augusta/Sav stretch) would be the Ft. Gordon, Ft. Stewart tie. Still, at the cost, not to mention the legacy costs, it just doesn’t seem to be worth the bucks.

  7. Jawgadude says:

    Deal said he supported the leg from Savannah to Augusta, I don’t he weighed in the rest of the planned route.

  8. Ramblinwreck says:

    It they’re considering more interstates I think a route that links North Georgia to South Carolina is a better investment. Any travel from NW Georgia/Chattanooga has to come via Atlanta or through Knoxville and I-40. You could eliminate a lot of truck traffic on the north side of I-285 if you had an east/west link from about Dalton to Anderson, SC.

    • I would think a northern arc from maybe Cartersville (or somewhere around there) on 75 to Commerce (or thereabouts) on 85 should solve that as well, wouldn’t it? I would think it would be cheaper to do it that way as well. Much less material, man hours, etc.

  9. Romegaguy says:

    Deal still has time to change his mind on this subject just like he has with several other issues

  10. saltycracker says:

    High speed rail is the mother of all black holes of gov’t transportation subsidies –

    interstate Sav-Augusta long shot possibly – with a Senator that can get ‘er done with earmarks – shooting for billions to carve thru the moutains must be a ploy to kill the whole idea….

    discussion of rail containers from the port to truck distribution centers ?

  11. Dave Bearse says:

    The subsidy conversation here has focused on the taxpayer capital cost subsidy of highways relative to railroads.

    Taxpayer-funded energy subsidies in the form of military expenses that are required to secure foreign oil, and air pollution and carbon costs dumped into the environment and thus borne by the economy as a whole are important inidrect subsidies too. Railroads are subsidized with respect to oil, air, carbon, but relatively much less than motor carriers because railroads require significantly less oil and therefore generate less pollution and cardon dioxide per ton mile.

    • Yep, I’ve read that the diesel electric locomotives these days are extremely efficient. Pretty neat design too… the train is actually all electric and the diesel generators kick on when they need to charge up the batteries I believe I read? If that’s the case, I wonder if they’ve considered outfitting solar panels on the top of the locomotive and along the tops of all the railroad cars. πŸ™‚

      • Dave Bearse says:

        The general operating principle of vast majority diesel electric locomotives are largely the same as they have been since diesel electrics began to displace steam locomotives in the 1930’s. A V-16 diesel engine drives a generator that produces electricity that in turn drives a number of traction motors that turn the locomotives axles. This operation eliminates the need for locomotive transmissions and drive trains. The batteries in diesel electrics function similiar to those in a diesel automobile or truck—they’re largely used to turn the engine to start it.

        The North American standard for a 20-30 year period through the 1970’s was 2,000-3,000 horsepower (hp) locomotives with direct current traction motors. Train lengths increased between the 1950’s and 1980’s to where say 5,000-20,000 hp was needed for the longest trains. Alternating current traction motors began to be used about 20 years ago, and are now the standard on locomotives with 4,000 or 5,000 hp. (There are various reasons at least two locomotives per train are desirable that I won’t go into here.)

        This is but a thumbnail description of the situation for road locomotives (long haul) on non-electrified railroad. These type locomotives constitute a majority of those in North American. Note there yet many 30 year old or older 2,000-3,000 hp locomotives around, but increasingly they’re limited to short line railroads.

        You touched on an energy point for further explanation. Currently diesel electric locomotives reverse the traction motors from users of electricity used to move the train to generators of electricity that act to control train speed downhill or otherwise reduce speed. The electricity generated by the motors turned generators is dissappated as heat via a large grid extending much of the length of the locomotives just under the roof. Figure out how to capture that energy and you’ll be a rich man. (There’s so much energy that batteries just aren’t effective receptacles for storing the generated electricity.)

        That highlights a beauty of electrified railroads. Those type locomotives draw electricity from a third rail or overhead linewires when power is needed. They return surplus electricity from traction motors turned generators to the third rail/aerial linewire when control or reducing speed.

        • Yep, this discussion got me reading just a little bit more on locomotive technologies. It’s certainly some interesting reading!

          I believe this smaller locomotive could probably fit into your description of one that can harness the energy created by the motors-turned-generators…

          It sounds to me like it’s more for just switching as it’s only 1,500 hp but it sounds like it’s a step in the right direction. The problem with the aerial wire / third rail is that it’s a lot of extra infrastructure to install. That’s why I was thinking solar as a replacement. Someone in the comments of that article even suggested adding a “battery car” which sounds like an interesting concept as well. I suppose battery car recharging stations could be positioned throughout the rail system and as a train needed a set of recharged batteries, it could stop to switch out battery cars and keep going?

          I’m still pondering how much electricity could be generated by filling the entire top of a train with solar panels as well. I understand that a 1,500 hp motor isn’t going to work for long haul. And you certainly can’t fill just the locomotive’s roof with enough solar panels to charge 1,000 batteries. But in a switching station, you probably don’t have 50 cars behind a train that stay hooked up long enough to charge the locomotive’s batteries, right?

          Either way, it’s certainly an interesting concept. πŸ™‚ Thanks for your expertise Dave — trains fascinate me! Went for a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad a couple of years ago and had a blast.

          • Dave Bearse says:

            I would think the battery car means literally means a car full of batteries or a car sized battery to store the electricity from the main diesel electric locomotives. The scale of the surplus power is such that it could easily provide that much charge.

            Depending on where you call home, and I’ve yet to sample either, but ought to check out the SAM excursion train that operates Cordele-Americus-Plains, or the excursion that operates Blue Ridge-McCayville—spend some tourist dollars in our state.

    • B Balz says:

      Quantifying ‘soft costs’ to obtain a true scope of subsidies is good, yet the 10X multiplier of rails reduced energy footprint is so compelling.

      I think DeKalb County would score a grand slam by linking Savannah to Atlanta, at former GM Plant, by express freight/passenger service. Helps Savannah, helps GA, helps DeKalb, helps environment.

  12. Lone Star Georgian says:

    I like the discussion going on here. However, some folks seem to assume that building a new road will “alleviate congestion”. Transportation research shows that they typically do in the short term, but later lead to increased congestion on that road and surrounding roads due to induced travel (trips that would not have normally been taken, but now are due to the new road’s existence). If you keep building people roads, they’re going to use them and fill them up. Then they’re going to want more roads.

    Talk about a government financed black hole. It never ends, AND it never solves our congestion problems even semi-permanently. We should be thinking of something else.

    • TheEiger says:

      Lone Star Georgian, from the sound of your post I guess you wouldn’t be willing to lobby Senator Hutchison who is the Ranking Republican Member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for more money for our new Interstate? That’s to bad, but our two Senators are good at getting earmarks so I guess they should be able to bring the pork home for us.

      • seenbetrdayz, Ph.D. says:

        The pork is already home. We just need to stop sending it off and begging our earmarking senators to get it back. It’s some kind of game that politicians have invented to give themselves some false sense of importance.

      • B Balz says:

        People enjoy rail service, when done properly. As the automobile becomes more costly to own and drive, as a % of Income. That trend is established as high unemployment, costs increase already increased,etc.

        Rail service needn’t be a black hole. “Give me a market before a Mill” And keep it American, DO NOT SELL our rights of way, infrastructure to a non-US entity to re-develop, please.

        I believe virtually everyone would embrace express rail service that uses ‘off-the-shelf- proven, reliable technology, is clean, safe, reasonable in cost that, and offers dining and business/social amenities.

  13. Scott65 says:

    As far as cost vs need…I just dont see the need. You take 95 up to SC, 26 Northwest thru SC up to 81 just north of Knoxville. Its not that much longer and its all interstate. This road would be redundant. As for creating development…have any of you traversed the ghost town that is I-16??? There is almost no development due to that highway being there

  14. Progressive Dem says:

    Georgia has so many transportation needs already. The state is postponing maintenance on its existing road system. We can’t pay for what we’ve got. This road is a non-starter. The US needs to speed 100’s of billions per year just to maintain the current highway system. We aren’t doing that and consequently bridge and highway safety is suffering. The US highway trust fund for financing transportation is completly broke. Two administrations and several congresses have not figured out a solution. The feds aren’t likely to contribute to a new interstate. If by chance the feds were to fund it, completing the enviornmental impact statement on a road ripping through the mountains will take years.

  15. NoTeabagging says:

    Deal’s peeps must own land along the route and Roy’s don’t. That’s how we always build roads in GA: along the path of land owned by the well connected, campaign contributin’, GOB’s (that Good Old Boys Ya’ll) .
    PS love the discussion here on rail service. thanks all.

      • B Balz says:

        Ouch and “that may leave a mark” funny in a sort of ‘eat the rich’ way of saying so. If and when gas hits $5-8 p/gal. the roads will be awash with ill tempered folk.

        We all unn’rstan how the road bidniz works ‘roun heah. But that train keeps a going, a going’, right out of heah.

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