Too many trucks on the road? GDOT proposes a $1.8 billion highway just for trucks

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"I-85 North in Atlanta" by nshivar is licensed under CC BY

The Gist: The Georgia Department of Transportation’s latest proposal to ease traffic congestion on Georgia’s interstates is to create an entirely new highway that will run along I-75 from Macon to Henry County. The new highway will only be for commercial trucks.

The Proposal: The new truck-only highway would be its own highway with exits that would run a 40-mile northbound stretch along I-75 from Macon to Henry County. Gov. Nathan Deal said last week that while the state will seek federal funding, the project will move forward using Georgia’s existing Transportation Funding Act. The current plan would have construction on the new highway begin in 2025. The truck-only highway would be a first. No other city in the U.S. has one.

The Numbers:

  • Estimated cost of the new highway: $1.8 billion.
  • Fatal accidents involving trucks: In 2016, 4,317 people died in car accidents involving trucks nationwide.
  • Length of the new highway: 40 miles.
  • Cargo carried by trucks: 75 percent of the state’s cargo is transported by truck.
  • Increased Traffic: If you think traffic is bad now, GDOT is expecting it to double by 2040.
  • Cost in Time: According to U.S. PIRG Transportation Advocate Matthew Casale, the hours spent in Atlanta traffic cost each driver $2,212 per year.
  • Ranking Atlanta: Atlanta is the fourth most congested urban area in the U.S.

Pros: According to GDOT, Georgia’s traffic is expected to double by 2040 due to a combination of population growth and an increase in the amount of freight traveling through Atlanta. The new highway is expected to relieve congestion and pave the way for tests on safe driverless trucking. GDOT is also hoping the new highway will reduce the number of fatalities and injuries due to accidents between commercial and private vehicles.

Cons: Opponents of the highway point to similar congestion relief strategies in Houston and on Georgia 400. According to Casale, the truck-only highway represents outdated transportation planning and would actually result in more congestion, not less. He points to trends indicating that new highways cause businesses to re-locate along them and for workers to move out further into the suburbs.

But will it decrease congestion?: That is up for debate. Any good transportation planner will tell you that traffic is here to stay and can’t be reduced, the best they can plan for is to reduce congestion on the roads. Georgia 400 is a fairly recent example of the impact of a new highway. When the highway was built, the population north of Sandy Springs was small. The population of north Fulton and Forsyth Counties has boomed since the highway was constructed. In addition, the removal of the toll lanes in 2013 caused an increase in congestion to the tune of about 2 to 7 percent depending on the time of day just four months later.