Will Interstate 3 link Savannah, Augusta and Knoxville?

Editor's note: Today's guest editorial is from the Savannah Morning News. The candidates for governor of Georgia are correct to express a certain cautious optimism when it comes to Interstate 3, the proposed highway linking Savannah, Augusta and Knoxville, Tenn. The route is currently under study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, an inquiry expected to wrap up next year. The study will include, among other aspects, the economic and environmental impacts of building the new highway. A Savannah-to-Augusta stretch of an I-3 should be a no-brainer.
A speedier link between Georgia's second largest metropolitan area and the nation's second busiest container port on the East Coast can only boost inland businesses, help create jobs and open up more Georgia products for export. Historically, the two cities have been linked economically by the Savannah River. It's time to tighten that bond by laying fresh asphalt. ... Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Nathan Deal and Democrat Roy Barnes have wisely staked out a wait-and-see stance on the more northerly section of the proposed route from Augusta to Knoxville. From a logistical point of view, extending the interstate to Eastern Tennessee would add a new east-west corridor (Interstate 40), good for striking deeper into the heartland with cargo deliveries. That's one reason the measure has been supported by Home Depot, Georgia Pacific and the Georgia Mining Association. ... The problem is that the proposed route for the interstate goes right through some of North Georgia's most pristine mountains -- a prospect that has fired an organized lobbying effort against I-3. Small town officials along the route fear two possible effects: That I-3 will shunt existing traffic (and business) away from their downtowns, and that the noise and vehicle exhaust from the highway will harm the environment and turn visitors off. ... Thankfully, the state Transportation Department is looking at several options. Let's hope the DOT finds an answer to that nagging question on Georgians' minds: How to easily get from one end of the state to the other without driving through traffic-clogged Atlanta.


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