Section 1927 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) (P.L. 109-59) requires "a report that describes the steps and estimated funding necessary to designate and construct a route for the 3rd Infantry Division Highway," extending from Savannah, Georgia, to Knoxville, Tennessee, by way of Augusta, Georgia. The intent of this study is to develop planning level cost estimates for potential corridors connecting these urban areas. The study is not intended to select an alternative for implementation nor will it lead to any further planning, design, right-of-way acquisition, or construction activities for any specific highway improvement unless state and regional policy-makers determine additional action is warranted.
Seven major work elements were undertaken as part of this study.
An Expert Working Group (EWG) was assembled to provide technical direction and unstructured opinions on various aspects of the study, composed of State and regional transportation representatives, Federal resource agencies, and one organized opposition group. The EWG met regularly throughout the study to guide and inform decisionmaking.
The legislation identified three control points through which corridors must pass: Savannah, Georgia; Augusta, Georgia; and Knoxville, Tennessee. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) added a control point at Lavonia, Georgia, to facilitate corridor development while avoiding impacts to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The consultant team relied on engineering judgment and recommendations from EWG members to define the study area and geographic boundaries for individual control points. The team identified four conceptual corridors to represent the range of potential connections between control points, as described in Table ES-1 and shown in Figure ES-1.
|Corridor A||Farthest west option, running along I-16 west out of Savannah, passing west of Augusta, passing east of Athens, GA and Gainesville, GA. A western option follows the western boundary of the National Forests to I-75 at Cleveland, TN; an eastern option crosses through the National Forests north of Dahlonega, GA to join I-75 at Sweetwater, TN.|
|Corridor B||Follows the Savannah River Parkway from Savannah, running west of the Georgia/South Carolina State line, and following existing roadways through the National Forests and along the western boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Knoxville. A bypass of SR 21 at Savannah was also considered for this corridor.|
|Corridor C||Follows the Savannah River Parkway from Savannah, following new and existing alignments through South Carolina from Augusta to west of Greenville, and crosses through the National Forests and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on existing alignments|
|Corridor D||Follows existing alignments from Savannah to Columbia, following I-26 and US 25 north and west to Knoxville|
These corridors were screened against "fatal flaws" to identify significant obstacles to implementation which effectively make a corridor infeasible or unreasonable for further study. The density of natural resources, the vast area protected by State or Federal designations, and aggressive terrain features throughout the northern portion of the study area create numerous challenges to highway development. Within the study area, vast tracts of land are protected as National Forests, National Parks, federally designated Wilderness Areas, wildlife conservation areas, and by other designations. Rugged topography and other geotechnical issues create constructability issues for alignments passing through the Appalachian Mountains. In addition, a number of regional residents and organizations have been outspoken about their desire to protect natural and cultural resources by limiting development.
The fatal flaw screening eliminated corridors from further consideration within this conceptual corridor study which would impact National Parks, pass through extreme mountainous terrain, or do not connect each of the control points. Screening against these metrics, the northern portion of Corridor B and entirety of Corridors C and D were deemed unreasonable and eliminated from further consideration. As a result, Corridor A and the southern portions of Corridor B/B Bypass were advanced for cost estimates. In the opinion of the EWG, these represent the "least objectionable" options of the corridors considered. A Signing Only Alternative that would install signage on an existing Interstate route was suggested by the EWG and was also advanced for cost estimates.
Four design levels were applied to corridors passing the fatal flaw screening.
The project team employed cost estimating methodologies developed by the Georgia and Tennessee Departments of Transportation (GDOT and TDOT) to forecast planning-level cost estimates for the corridors passing the fatal flaw screening. Each State model provides unit costs for preliminary engineering, right-of-way, utilities, and construction, with adjustment factors to account for project types, land use/location, and other variables that influence costs.
Using methodologies developed by TDOT and GDOT, planning-level cost estimates were prepared for the different corridor options to represent the 3rd Infantry Division Highway:
Costs were developed to reflect each design level. The full Corridor A West option is estimated to cost between $700 million and $4.8 billion. The cost range accounts for the design level of improvements to the corridor and is not a risk-based probabilistic approach. See Table ES-2 for a detailed cost breakdown of Corridor A West. Table ES-3 provides a comparison of the other corridor options at each design level.
|Engineering||$65 million||$113 million||$237 million||$468 million|
|ROW||$68 million||$108 million||$313 million||$576 million|
|Utility*||$73 million||$176 million||$198 million||$252 million|
|Construction||$483 million||$790 million||$1.716 billion||$3.680 billion|
|TOTAL**||$701 million||$1.216 billion||$2.501 billion||$4.845 billion|
|GA Total||$564 million||$902 million||$2.099 billion||$4.316 billion|
|TN Total||$137 million||$314 million||$402 million||$529 million|
* Utility costs presented for GA portion only; TN utility costs included in construction category
** Additional 10% contingency added to total project costs within TN
|A West||$701 million||$1.2 billion||$2.5 billion||$4.8 billion|
|A West (Dalton spur)||$564 million||$874 million||$2.0 billion||$4.2 billion|
|B/A West||n/a||n/a||$2.5 billion||$5.2 billion|
|B Bypass/A West||n/a||n/a||$3.1 billion||$5.9 billion|
|Signing Only||n/a||n/a||n/a||< $500,000|
This section provides a high-level overview of the complex sequence of steps required to construct a major, environmentally sensitive highway improvement project. Although all States have technical processes to identify, plan, design, and construct a highway improvement, each also has special requirements based on individual administrative, regulatory, and legislative requirements. It is often not practical to improve the entirety of a lengthy corridor at once; the corridor must be divided into manageable sections. Federal regulations require that each section to be constructed has independent utility with logical termini even if the remainder of the proposed corridor improvements were not completed. In this way each section advances through a similar process as funding becomes available.
The eight steps shown in Figure ES-2 outline the essential stages for improvement projects similar to the proposed 3rd Infantry Division Highway. Details of each step are provided in later sections of this report.
Figure ES-2: Major Project Development Phases
These steps represent a logical progression through transportation decisionmaking; however, the timeline can vary dramatically between projects. According to a 2002 testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, it generally takes 9 to 19 years to plan, gain approval for, and construct a highway project with significant environmental impacts; larger, more complex, or controversial projects can take longer. The environmental analysis phase alone takes an average of 6 years to complete. As part of the FHWA's Every Day Counts initiative, project delivery timelines are being shortened through enhanced technical support.
Consensus building among diverse stakeholders and the priority of the project statewide can greatly influence the project timeline.
A multistate project such as the 3rd Infantry Division Highway represents many individual projects across different regions within one or more States. Each independent section must advance through the project development process:
Once a roadway is open to traffic, it is the responsibility of the owner (the State DOT or local government) to maintain traffic operations along the facility for its service life.
Because of the conceptual nature of the study and large geographic area concerned, a project Web site was the primary venue for public involvement, providing a project-specific form that users can complete to submit comments and concerns electronically. As of June 15, 2011, 229 comments have been received. Although 15 messages have been received in support of a project, the vast majority of comments oppose further development of any corridor. Four key themes emerged from the public comments received:
Three online question and answer sessions were hosted during May 2011 to engage interested parties. Each Webinar featured a brief presentation about the study process, followed by an opportunity for participants to ask questions of the project team. A total of 50 individuals attended the three events.
A new or improved corridor between Savannah, Augusta, and Knoxville has not been identified in any State DOT or MPO long-range plan.
A new highway corridor from Savannah to Knoxville would result in significant costs, both financial and environmental. This Southern Appalachian region contains a dense mixture of small mountain communities, sensitive environmental resources, and federally managed lands.
Analysis suggests corridors located farther west face fewer environmental and terrain challenges than corridors located in the center or eastern portions of the Study Area. However, significant resources impacts are likely to result from any alternative.
Numerous members of the public have expressed their opposition to this corridor concept and to other new highways proposed in the region.