Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
Federal Highway Administration
Cambridge Systematics, Inc.
PBS&J, an Atkins Company
October 1, 2010
This technical memorandum is being submitted in fulfillment of Task 5 of the 14th Amendment Highway Corridor Study. It presents recommendations for control points and sub-control points, together with the justification and rationale behind each. These recommendations also incorporate input provided by participants in an Expert Working Group (EWG) meeting that was held on September 14, 2010. A summary of that meeting, including participants and key discussion points, is documented in the EWG Meeting Minutes and will be posted on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) website.
With the input of the EWG, two types of control points have been identified. The first are those that define the end of a section of highway improvement of independent utility that are near the cities cited in the statute. SAFETEA-LU specifies that the route of the 14th Amendment Highway should link Natchez, Mississippi with Augusta, Georgia by way of Montgomery, Alabama and Columbus and Macon, Georgia. These five cities have been defined as control points.
Figure 1: 14th Amendment Highway Control Points
The second type of control point are those that define the end of a section of highway improvement of independent utility but are not near the cities cited in the statute. These have been defined as sub-control points and are generally located in areas where more than one route is available to reach the next control point cited in the statute. The following paragraphs discuss each control point and sub-control point by state.
Within Mississippi, the control point is Natchez and sub-control points are Brookhaven and Laurel.
Figure 2: Control Points and Sub-Control Points in Mississippi
SAFETEA-LU cites Natchez, Mississippi as the westernmost control point for the 14th Amendment Highway. From Natchez, the corridor could utilize US 84, a four-lane divided highway, to Brookhaven, Mississippi. US 84 was chosen because it is currently a four-lane facility between Natchez and Waynesboro, Mississippi and would need minimal improvement to serve as the 14th Amendment corridor within Mississippi. The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) stated at the September 14th EWG meeting that US 84 is a viable option for the 14th Amendment Highway within Mississippi as it is centrally located, is a four-lane facility, and operates at a high level of service (LOS).
The US 61 corridor was considered as an alternate route to reach Interstate 20 from Natchez. However, portions of US 61 are currently a two-lane facility, and past efforts to upgrade the two-lane sections, particularly in the area of Port Gibson, have met with public opposition as well as severe environmental constraints, including the crossing of the Natchez Trace Parkway. This route was discussed in the September 14th EWG meeting and the MDOT and FHWA representatives agreed that this route would not be feasible. The MDOT representative also noted that US 84 and Interstate 59 currently operate at a higher level of service (LOS) than Interstate 20 (I-20) between Vicksburg and Jackson. The EWG agreed that adding additional traffic volume to I-20 in this area would worsen LOS to unacceptable levels.
As stated, the corridor could utilize US 84 from Natchez to Brookhaven, Mississippi. Brookhaven has been designated as a sub-control point. In Brookhaven, the corridor could continue to utilize existing US 84 to Laurel, Mississippi, or the corridor could utilize existing Interstate 55 (I-55) to Jackson, Mississippi. Both routes are viable as US 84 remains a four lane facility between Brookhaven and Laurel, and I-55 is built to Interstate standards. Neither MDOT nor Mississippi FHWA cited a preference for either route at the September 14 EWG meeting.
From Brookhaven, utilizing US 84 leads to Laurel, Mississippi which has been designated as a sub-control point. From Laurel, the corridor could continue to utilize US 84 east to the Alabama state line, or the corridor could utilize Interstate 59 (I-59) north to Meridian, Mississippi. Both routes are viable. I-59 is built to Interstate standards, and, although US 84 is currently two lanes east of Waynesboro, MDOT is in the process of widening US 84 to four lanes from Waynesboro to the Alabama state line.
Meridian is the next designated sub-control point. From Brookhaven, utilizing I-55 leads to Jackson, Mississippi and I-20, and from Jackson, the corridor would utilize I-20 to Meridian. From Laurel, the corridor would utilize I-59 to its intersection with I-20, southwest of Meridian. The corridor would continue east on I-20 to its proposed junction with the proposed Interstate 85 (I-85) Extension. Members of the EWG noted that this routing is an attractive option for an Interstate type facility. It should be noted that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the I-85 Extension is currently being circulated by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and FHWA for comments.
Within Alabama, Montgomery is the control point, and sub-control points are Grove Hill, Tuskegee and Opelika.
Figure 3: Control Points and Sub-Control Points in Alabama
As noted above, the preferred option to connect Meridian, Mississippi to Montgomery, Alabama is the I-85 Extension. A second option that could connect Meridian with Montgomery was explored. This option would utilize US 80 between Meridian and Montgomery; however, members of the EWG noted that a portion of US 80, between Selma and Montgomery, has a historical designation as the Voting Rights Trail. Because of this, it was determined that US 80 between Meridian and Montgomery would not be a viable option for the 14th Amendment corridor.
Grove Hill has been designated as another sub-control point. Continuing east from Laurel, Mississippi, the corridor could utilize US 84 to Grove Hill, Alabama. From Grove Hill, the corridor could continue to utilize US 84 to Evergreen, Alabama and Interstate 65 (I-65), or a new roadway could be constructed that would connect Grove Hill with I-65 near Greenville, Alabama. US 84 from the state line to I-65 is mostly a two lane facility and would require upgrading in order for it to serve as the 14th Amendment Highway corridor.
Montgomery is the only control point designated for Alabama. As previously discussed, Montgomery could be reached two ways. First, from Meridian, Mississippi, the corridor would follow I-20 and the proposed I-85 Extension to reach the Montgomery area. Second, from Evergreen or Greenville, I-65 could be utilized to reach the Montgomery area. Regardless of which route is utilized, both options tie in with the proposed Montgomery Outer Loop at the suggestion of EWG members.
From the Montgomery Outer Loop, the corridor could utilize Interstate 85 (I-85) east to Tuskegee or Opelika, Alabama. Both Tuskegee and Opelika are designated as sub-control points. From Tuskegee, the corridor could continue east along I-85 to Opelika, or the corridor could utilize US 80 east to Columbus, Georgia. From Opelika, the corridor would utilize US 431 and US 280 to Columbus. US 80 is an even mixture of two and four lanes between Tuskegee and Opelika, while US 431 and US 280 are four lanes between Opelika and Columbus. The ALDOT EWG representative recommended the US 431 route from Opelika to Columbus rather than the US 80 route from Tuskegee to Columbus
Within Georgia, control points are Columbus, Macon and Augusta, and sub-control points are Fort Valley and Wrens.
Figure 4: Control Points and Sub-Control Points in Georgia
Columbus, Georgia is designated in the legislation and is a control point. From Columbus, the corridor would follow the Fall Line Freeway, a four-lane facility, to Fort Valley.
Fort Valley is designated as a sub-control point. From Fort Valley, the corridor could utilize SR 96, which is included in the GDOT program to be widened from two to four lanes, to Interstate 16 (I-16). At I-16, the corridor would continue north along SR 96 to Jeffersonville and then follow SR 18 north to SR 57 and the Fall Line Freeway and then continue east to Wrens.
Alternatively, from Fort Valley, the corridor could utilize the Fort Valley Bypass (SR 49C) to Peach Parkway (SR 49) to I-75. With the exception of a small stretch of Peach Parkway just north of the Fort Valley Bypass, both the Bypass and Peach Parkway are four-lane, divided roadways. The corridor would then follow I-75 north, to I-16 east, to Ocmulgee East Boulevard (US 129/SR 87), to US 80 (Jeffersonville Road), continue east along US 80 to SR 57 where the Fall Line Freeway picks back up east of Macon, and follow the Fall Line Freeway alignment east to Wrens. This option would require improvements to some two lane roadways. However, it avoids the section of US 80 that is located adjacent to the Ocmulgee National Monument and utilizes I-16 as much as possible. It should be noted that this route would be located adjacent to the Herbert Smart Airport (a.k.a. Macon Downtown Airport).
The SR 96 option would route the corridor to within approximately 20 miles of Macon, which is a control point cited in the statute; while the I-75 to I-16 option would route the corridor within the city limits of Macon.
It should be noted that the Fall Line Freeway was originally planned to connect Columbus to Augusta, and according to GDOT, all sections of the Fall Line Freeway will be constructed or under construction within the next five years with the exception of the portion through Macon. The portion of the Fall Line Freeway that would run through Macon has been plagued with controversy due to public opposition, impacts to a Traditional Cultural Property associated with the Ocmulgee National Monument, and other environmental impacts. Should the Fall Line Freeway be completed, it would provide the most logical connection between Columbus and Augusta.
During the September 14th EWG meeting, GDOT noted that a project is programmed that would provide a new connection between I-16 and the Fall Line Freeway in the vicinity of Gordon. However, no engineering has occurred, so the proposed location is unknown at this time. However, this could provide a viable corridor alternative to connect the Macon area with the Augusta area.
The Macon MPO noted that the Middle Georgia Regional Council has endorsed a potential project to extend Sardis Church Road beyond SR 247 to I-16 at Sgoda Road and to extend Sgoda Road to SR 57 in order to tie in with the Fall Line Freeway. Based on correspondence with the Mayor of Macon, this is the City's preferred route for both the 14th Amendment Highway corridor and the Fall Line Freeway through the Macon area. Based on information obtained from the Macon MPO, the extension of Sardis Church Road would begin at the terminus of an ongoing GDOT project currently in the right-of-way acquisition phase (Sardis Church Road extension from I-75 to Avondale Mill Road and SR 247) and would continue east and north, crossing US 129/US 23/SR 87/Golden Isles Parkway to the an existing interchange at I-16 and Sgoda Road. This alignment would require a new crossing of the Ocmulgee River and would traverse approximately 2.5 miles of wetlands and floodplain. At the I-16/Sgoda Road interchange, the council has endorsed a second project that would extend Sgoda Road east to US 80 at Riggins Mill Road and then north to SR 57. Both potential projects have undergone a high level 'fatal flaw' analysis. No fatal flaws were found. Neither project is included in the current GDOT program or the current Macon/Bibb County TIP.
From Wrens the corridor could either utilize US 1 to Interstate 520 (I-520)/Augusta, or SR 221 to I-20/Augusta. Augusta is cited in the legislation and serves as the easternmost control point.
The analysis of the consultant team combined with input from the EWG contributed to the development of the control points and sub-control points described in this Technical Memorandum. More specific analysis will be conducted in Task 7 (Study Alignments and Design Levels) on the alignments developed from the control point and sub-control point recommendations. These preliminary alignments and design levels will be provided to the FHWA and EWG for discussion at the next EWG meeting and will be discussed in a separate Technical Memorandum.