Interstate 3

Proposed Routing

Interstate 3 is the proposed designation for a new freeway corridor along the Savannah River corridor between Savannah, Georgia, and Knoxville, Tennessee. Proposed previously as the Savannah River Parkway, it was elevated to Interstate status through a bill introduced in July 2004 by Georgia Representative Max Burns. The potential highway was numbered Interstate 3 in honor of Fort Stewart's 3rd Infantry Division's lead role in the War on Terror in Iraq. I-3 would be known as the "3rd Infantry Division Highway."

The freeway corridor would start in Savannah at the divering diamond interchange between Georgia 21 and Interstate 95. Interstate 3 would follow Georgia 21 northwest from I-95 past Springfield to the Sylvania Bypass and then onto U.S. 301 north. The freeway would depart U.S. 301 at Georgia 24, then continue northwest via Georgia 24 to U.S. 25 Bypass at Waynesboro. I-3 would then follow U.S. 25 north to Interstate 520, then overlay I-520 to the west of Augusta and pass by proposed Interstate 14. North of I-20, I-3 would follow Georgia 104 north to Georgia 47 at Leah, then take Georgia 79 from Lincolnton north to Georgia 72 east of Elberton. Interstate 3 would head west to Elberton via Georgia 72, then continue northwest via Georgia 77 to Hartwell. After passing Interstate 85, I-3 would take over Georgia 17 northwest to Toccoa, Clarkesville and Hiawassee.

North from Hiawassee, Interstate 3 would leave Georgia and enter North Carolina, following Georgia 17 and North Carolina 69 north to U.S. 64 west to Murphy. At Murphy, the freeway would accompany U.S. 19-129 north and U.S. 74 east via an existing expressway to Topton, then head north along U.S. 129 to the western edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and onward into Tennessee. Once in Tennessee, I-3 would overtake U.S. 129 north through Maryville and Alcoa, then pick up Interstate 140 north to meet I-40/75 just west of Knoxville. This interchange would serve as the northern terminus.

Interstate 3 is a somewhat disputed designation for this route because it does not fit into the grid pattern of U.S. Interstate highways. Lower, odd-numbered, north-south routes exist in the West. However, since there are no easily identifiable available numbers, Interstate 3 was proposed.

Route Status

The concept of Interstate 3 (and companion Interstate 14/14th Amendment Highway) was originally proposed by Republican Representative Max Burns from Georgia. A planned "Route Initiation Act" was authored by Rep. Burns in July 2004 for the 108th Congress that would authorize a study of the planned Interstate 14 corridor:

To require a study and report regarding the construction and designation of a new interstate from Savannah, Georgia to Knoxville, Tennessee." This act is known as the "Interstate 3/3rd Infantry Division Highway Initiation Act of 2004.

According to the act, the Interstate highway is necessary for several reasons, including (1) linking defensive installations across the South, including Fort Gordon, Eisenhower Army Regional Medical Center, the Augusta Veterans Administration Hospitals, Fort Stewart, Hunter Army Airfield, and the Port of Savannah,

which is in the strategic defense interest of the Nation.
(2) In addition, economic benefit would be achieved through this new Interstate highway because
East Georgia, Western North Carolina, and the Great Smoky Mountains region of Tennessee are underserved by north-south interstate highways, and [these regions] would benefit economically and through increased public safety by establishment of an interstate highway.
Finally, this highway would honor the sacrifice of the United States Army 3rd Infantry Division, which was involved with various events in the Iraq War, including taking over Najaf, seizing Saddam International Airport and Saddam Husseinís palaces, and fighting on the day of Baghdad's "liberation."4

The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by six members of Georgia's delegation in late July; the legislation was written by Representative Burns. Companion legislation for Interstates 14 and 3 was filed in the Senate by Georgia Democrat Zell Miller and Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss.1 The bill is assigned the designation H.R. 4925 and was introduced on July 22, 2004.6 The bill requires the Secretary of Transportation to study the two proposed Interstate routes and present options for construction to Congress by December 31, 2004.

On November 2, 2004, Representative Max Burns was defeated by Democrat John Barrow. Due to the extensive, bipartisan support of the freeway, it was thought that new Representative Barrow was likely to lobby just as hard for the road as Burns did. Changes to the corridor were possible, especially since Barrow was from Sylvania in Screven County (along the proposed I-3) and Barrow is from Athens, which is not along the originally envisioned Interstate 3 corridor. Athens does not currently have a main interstate link through it, although U.S. 78 passes through the city. Georgia 316 is a four-lane parkway from Interstate 85 in Gwinnett County near Atlanta.3 As of March 2004, plans called for the conversion of Georgia 316 into an upgraded toll freeway complete with interchanges and HOV lanes.5 Some at-grade intersections along Georgia 316 were replaced with interchanges over the ensuing time period, but as of 2018, the bulk of the route remains an at-grade highway.

On August 10, 2005, the legislation to study the Interstate 3 corridor was signed into law by President George W. Bush as part of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). However, the I-3 designation was not written into law. Text from Section 1927 of SAFETEA-LU:

SEC. 1927. 14TH AMENDMENT HIGHWAY AND 3RD INFANTRY DIVISION HIGHWAY.

Not later than December 31, 2005, any funds made available to commission studies and reports regarding construction of a route linking Augusta, Georgia, Macon, Georgia, Columbus, Georgia, Montgomery, Alabama, and Natchez, Mississippi and a route linking through Savannah, Georgia, Augusta, Georgia, and Knoxville, Tennessee, shall be provided to the Secretary to-

  1. carry out a study and submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report that describes the steps and estimated funding necessary to construct a route for the 14th Amendment Highway, from Augusta, Georgia, to Natchez, Mississippi (formerly designated the Fall Line Freeway in the State of Georgia); and
  2. carry out a study and submit to the appropriate committees of Congress 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 (formerly the Savannah River Parkway in the State of Georgia).

Completion of the route would be costly. It was anticipated that Congressional support would bring needed funding to the project. The Savannah River Parkway (Georgia 555 and Georgia 565), which follows the Interstate 3 corridor between Savannah and Augusta, was mostly upgraded to expressway standards. Further upgrades of the corridor to Interstate standards did not take place, and plans for potential I-3 remain unlikely as of 2018.

Southern Terminus - Interstate 95 - Savannah, Georgia
The south end of the I-3 corridor was centered around the location where Interstate 95 meets Georgia 21/30. A $6 million project rebuilt the ramps between the two highways into a diverging diamond interchange (DDI). The DDI opened to traffic on January 16, 2017.7
Northern Terminus - Interstate 40/75 - Knoxville, Tennessee
The directional T interchange joining U.S. 129 with I-40/75 was the likely candidate for the north end of Interstate 3. However with costs to construct a freeway corridor through the mountainous terrain of North Carolina and Tennessee, I-3 would likely not extend north of Georgia.

Sources

  1. "Highway idea may be boon for state: Lawmakers push 2 new interstates" by James Salzer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published on 07/23/04 (includes map of route for Interstate 3)
  2. Craig, Jeremy, "Interstate 3 and Interstate 14," July 26, 2004, personal email from an Augusta resident
  3. Craig, Jeremy, "RE: Interstate 3 and Interstate 14," November 6, 2004, personal email from an Augusta resident
  4. Representative Max Burns Official Webpage http://burns.house.gov/html/release.cfm?id=169.
  5. "Two more firms to bid for Ga. 316 toll project" by Duane D. Stanford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published on 03/22/04
  6. http://www.theorator.com/bills108/hr4925.html.
  7. "UPDATE: Highway 21 Diverging Diamond Interchange Now Open." WSAV (Savannah, GA), January 15, 2017.

Page Updated September 23, 2018.