Kia and Caterpillar Battle For Transportation Funding

Via, Walter Jones of the Morris News Service points out how the now-approved deepening of the Savannah Harbor is forcing the Georgia DOT to prioritize road improvements needed because of the expected increase in traffic out of the port.

Officials in Macon and West Georgia are pushing for road improvements along the corridor connecting Macon and LaGrange.

“We’re interested in it for commerce, more industry. We’ve got companies in the western party of Georgia that are dependent on that port. … I would much rather have them spend their money on a Georgia port than Mobile,” said Lanier Boatwright, executive director of the Three Rivers Regional Commission.

Macon sees the West Georgia corridor as a way for the Middle Georgia city to become a trade intersection, according to Patrick Topping, senior vice president of the Macon Economic Development Commission.

LaGrange, of course, is the home of Kia Motors, which would be a big beneficiary of the road widening. But, there is another competitor for limited funds. That would be the Caterpillar plant in Athens, which plans to use the port to export much of what it manufactures. To do that, DOT officials are planning improvements to US 441 between the Classic City and I-16.

As of now, it appears the 441 corridor will get any available funding, leaving the Macon-Lagrange improvements possibly waiting another fifteen years.

If only they had passed the TSPLOST.


  1. Charlie says:

    Two of those regions did pass the T-SPLOST. But things like the Fall Line Freeway couldn’t be included because they crossed multiple regions (think making GA-316 to Athens a limited access highway for you Atlanta centric folk).

    Interstate Highways have an inherent national function (post roads are even in the Constitution specifically) and the state has a function for major projects (now, likely the primary one).

    For every Kia or Caterpillar, there are hundreds of suppliers, distributors, and retailers that rely on the ability of these companies to move supplies to them and goods from them. Each, employing Georgians along the way.

    We all need these roads, both for us and for the others that move the goods and our economy. Building more large scale freeways outside of Atlanta allows a lot more of these goods to move freely outside of our rush hour gridlock.

    And, as always, let’s remember that rail can and should be part of this solution.

    • MattMD says:

      I could be wrong but I thought SR-316 was supposed to be of an “Interstate Standard” when it was originally conceived but G-DOT reversed it due to funding concerns. That road can definitely support 70+ mph speeds but then oh, hey, here is a stoplight right behind the setting sun. When I dated coeds at Georgia, I remember thinking about the inherent danger of that road, especially at sunset (it is basically due west). I can’t remember if the T-SLOST would have rectified that situation or not. I know Gwinnett is taking the 20 and Collins Hill interchanges to above grade.

      Pro-tip: Always check for cars/trucks behind you at a light and make sure you can get out of an impending collision.

      • xdog says:

        Yeah, it was lack of funding that led to all the at-grade crossings. The day 316 opened there was a fatality at Bethlehem.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        316 should have been tolled so that the road could have been built to Interstate standards and had a dedicated stream of revenue for ongoing maintenance costs.

  2. Ellynn says:

    Can we start with the Huge bottle neck first? The I16/I75 interchange has got to be address.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      We need to start with all of the aforementioned transportation needs and we need to raise money for all of them instead of continuing to starve our transportation system of critically-needed funding.

      • Rambler14 says:

        What are you talking about LDIG?
        We’re “taxed enough already”!!!!!!1!

        We should just stop growing as a region and enforce mandatory 2 days a week telecommuting for everyone. That will magically solve all of our traffic problems. Oh, and traffic signal coordination.

      • Ellynn says:

        If you have a LaGrange – Macon connecting the port of Savannah as a priority (as aforementioned) the trucks pass through the I16/I75 connection. That would be like paving your driveway while the street is still made of gravel and red clay.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      There’s been a project that completely rebuilds the interchange and that includes collector-distributor roads between the interchange and the I-16 MLK interchange that has been in the works for over a decade.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        Here’s a link to the official GDOT website for the proposed (but of course, unfunded) I-16/I-75 interchange reconstruction project that Mr. Bearse is referring to:

  3. saltycracker says:

    Freeways, roads and commercial rail should be the solution outside the Atlanta metro.
    As for passenger rail, is a consideration to upgrade some rail lines to passenger not in the private/public possibility?

    • Charlie says:

      With the exception of the Atlanta-Lovejoy route, no.

      Anything beyond that isn’t an upgrade. It would require building an entirely new parallel system.

      • saltycracker says:

        Thanks. Too bad, as imo a parallel system not feasible with Ga’ s people density, both in numbers and those above poverty to tax.

  4. Will Durant says:

    What doesn’t work for me is giving KIA and Caterpillar tens of millions of dollars each in tax incentives and in the case of Caterpillar an additional 8 million in guaranteed infrastructure improvements, then turning around and wanting the taxpayers to fund even more new roads for them.

    • Charlie says:

      As I said above, I don’t like the characterization that this is roads for “them”. We can’t grow a manufacturing base and the high paying jobs that come with it and not expect to have to grow our infrastructure at the same time. Logistics are incredibly important to any manufacturer, and it’s one of the factors that makes Georgia attractive. Unless we choke off this advantage by being victims of our own success.

      And most of the “gifts” we give these companies come in two standard categories:

      1) We abate taxes, usually for about a decade, so that we don’t get tax revenue that we wouldn’t have gotten if they didn’t locate here in the first place.

      2) We offer job training assistance so that they have workers that can do the jobs manufacturers require. The result is that we have Georgians who are employed, pay taxes, and have skills they wouldn’t otherwise have had.

      • saltycracker says:

        Roads are good in negotiations, others benefit too, but the costs have to be in the accountability calculations for recovery -Fed/state/county/corporate….

        Job training assistance is usually a tricky accounting intangible. The few I had experience with were monies neither party got fair value for. Just give them a few million to build better community relations and everyone feels good.

        • Charlie says:

          We’re not talking about the multiple nebulous federal type job training programs that are really just giveaways to mayor and political cronies. These are tangible and specific.

          Zell Miller deserves credit for creating this type of program as a creative way to keep Total Systems (now TSYS) in Columbus. They were growing rapidly as a high tech credit card/payment processor – so rapidly that because of their value they had to be spun out from ownership by CB&T/Synovus. Columbus didn’t have the labor force to provide them with the people they needed to keep up with their growth. Miller created a high tech training center and they agreed to stay in downtown Columbus, anchoring what is now one of the best downtowns in Georgia.

          Kia has the same type of operation. There is a training center on the grounds of their west point plant that every new hire goes thru before being put on their assembly line. As I recall, it’s operated jointly with Georgia’s Office of Workforce Development.

          We can’t attract the employers if we can’t provide them the employees we need. I agree with having these type of programs. In addition, what we need to start focusing on is getting our high schools, technical colleges, community colleges, and universities all focused on skills employers need, rather than helping kids “find themselves” over a six year period.

          • saltycracker says:

            Sounds like a much better result than the ones I observed. Goes back to sound management and execution.

            Your last remark bears repeating.. probably in capital letters….at a recent UGA graduation exercise my epiphany was we gave them the useless degree because they demanded it…

            “In addition, what we need to start focusing on is getting our high schools, technical colleges, community colleges, and universities all focused on skills employers need, rather than helping kids “find themselves” over a six year period.”

  5. Dave Bearse says:

    A couple of comments….

    Georgia indirectly contributed to the establishment of a small and relatively new railroad-highway intermodal yard in Cordele: The intermodal yard connects to both NS and CSXT in Cordele. It was developed to provide intermodal service to or from west central and southwestern Georgia, and east central and southeastern Alabama, and particularly to provide service through the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal. Rail transportation between the yard and Savannah is via joint operation on the Georgia Central Railway (using the Savannah-Vidalia portion of the GCR-owned route between Savannah and Macon) and Heart of Georgia Railroad (using the Vidalia-Cordele portion of the Vidalia-Plains route that HOG leases from GDOT).

    The Garden City Terminal is focused on containers, and the Port of Brunswick’s Colonel’s Island Terminal is focused on and motor vehicles, both import and export, and agri-bulk commodities. (I think the port’s specialization is one of the elements that have made Georgia Ports so successful over the past two decades.) Not that KIA can’t export through Savannah, but Brunswick is much better adapted for motor vehicle export, and is used to export KIAs:

    I don’t know if the KIAs are transported by rail between West Point and Colonel’s Island Terminal however, unlike Mercedes Benz vehicles manufactured in Vance, AL that are shipped by rail through Atlanta and exported at Colonel’s Island. (The shorter KIA land movement may be more economical by truck, e.g. a semi-trailer load of vehicles can be picked up, transported to and unloaded at the port in one truck driver’s shift, which is hardly the case from Vance, AL, plus the fraction of transportation cost due to fuel, where railroads have a large advantage over trucks, increases with increasing trip length).

    Here’s a link to a report prepared in the planning stages of the facility:

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