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Interstate 16

 

Routing

Interstate 16 forms an intrastate route joining Macon with Savannah in southern Georgia. The primary purpose of the route is to link I-75 with the Port of Savannah to aid in the movement of goods.2 Connecting with Interstate 95 at Pooler, I-16 also provides part of a high-speed route from Atlanta to the Golden Isles and Jacksonville, Florida.

The freeway originates at a directional-T interchange with I-75 at the Ocmulgee River northwest of Downtown Macon. Heading southeast, the freeway serves commuting interests to U.S. 129 (Gray Highway) and U.S. 80 (Coliseum Drive) before quickly leaving the Macon urban area to Lanier Heights near Macon Downtown Airport (MAC).

Beyond Macon, Interstate 16 travels a rural course south and east across forested hills in Twiggs County. Forest stands give way to some agricultural fields as the freeway nears the quad point of Bleckley, Laurens, Twiggs and Wilkinson Counties at the town of Allentown. Advancing eastward, I-16 reaches the outskirts of Dublin, the largest city between Macon and Savannah, before crossing the Oconee River.

East from the river, I-16 winds through more forest land with generous exit less stretches through to the city of Metter. Passing south of there, the freeway remains unchanged in character and design, but across increasing areas of wetlands leading to Chatham County.

Suburban expansion adds commuter traffic to Interstate 16 from the Bloomingdale and Pooler areas through to the full cloverleaf interchange with Interstate 95. Beyond the busy exchange, I-16 reaches the Savannah city limits, passing by industrial areas through to Interstate 516, a north-south spur between Garden City, Hunter Army Airfield and Midtown Savannah. U.S. 17 combines with Interstate 16 beyond I-516 as the freeway makes its final approach to Historic Downtown. Freeway branches from I-16 serve Midtown via Georgia 204 (37th Street Connector) and Hutchinson Island via U.S. 17 & Georgia 404 Spur north to the Talmadge Bridge.

Parallel/Historical U.S. Routes

The easternmost segment of formerly transcontinental U.S. 80 follows the Interstate 16 corridor between Macon and Savannah. U.S. 129 Alternate also parallels the freeway south from Lanier Heights outside Macon to Bullard, while the easternmost portion doubles as U.S. 17.

Future Aspirations

Work to rebuild the interchange at Interstate 16's west end is slated for construction starting in 2018. The three-year project was first studied in the early 1980s with preliminary engineering in 1998. Construction will shift the left-hand ramps from I-75 south to I-16 east and from I-16 west to I-75 south to right-hand ramps. Collector distributor roadways will be added including along I-75 south from I-16 to U.S. 41 & GA 19 (Hardeman Avenue / Forsyth Street) and on both sides of I-16 to Exits 1 and 2. Details of the project can be found at the GaDOT I-16/I-75 Improvement Project web site.

There are no official plans to extend Interstate 16 further west. Construction of High Priority Corridor 6/Fall Line Freeway, which includes U.S. 80 west from Geneva to Tuskegee, Alabama, involved building a four-lane divided highway at-grade in Georgia. The Fall Line Freeway is already completed west of Macon. It extends east from U.S. 80 at Geneva along Georgia 96 to Georgia 49 Connector west of Fort Valley. Georgia 49C and Georgia 49 extend the Fall Line Freeway northeast to Exit 149 of Interstate 75 at Byron.

History

The final section of Interstate 16, through Emanuel, Candler, and Bulloch Counties, opened on September 22, 1978, completing the route between Macon and Savannah.1 The freeway at Macon was constructed prior between 1966 and 1968.2

Highway Guides

Western Terminus - Interstate 75 - Macon, Georgia
Perspective from Interstate 16 west
The final mainline interchange of Interstate 16 west is Exit 1B at Georgia 22/2nd Street - Downtown Macon. The first eastbound interchange is situated to the west at U.S. 129/Spring Street. A frontage road connects the two interchange and thus, U.S. 129 and nearby Georgia 49 shields are featured on this guide sign. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/06/03).
This is the final Interstate 16 west shield assembly, found after the onramp from U.S. 23-129 and Georgia 49 (Exit 1A). Photo taken 05/28/05.
Situated between Exit 2 at U.S. 129 and Interstate 75 (Exit 1) is the second to last sign bridge for Interstate 16 westbound travelers. Three westbound lanes provide two lanes to each direction of Interstate 75. Photo taken 05/28/05.
End Interstate 16 shields are posted at the Exit 1 ramps to Interstate 75 south and north. In the background on the northbound Interstate 75 ramps are hurricane evacuation trailblazers. Downtown Macon flanks Interstate 75 east and Interstate 16 south within this vicinity. Interstate 75 southbound returns motorists to the central business district of Macon. Northward from here, Interstate 75 travels to Atlanta. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Merge of Interstate 16 west onto Interstate 75 north. Interstate 75 sees only four lanes through the city of Macon proper as Interstate 475 to the west of the city carries the brunt of through travel interests on six lanes. Downtown Atlanta is 82 miles northward via Interstate 75. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Interstate 16 west merges onto Interstate 75 north. From here, Interstate 75 continues with two northbound lanes until it reconnects with Interstate 475. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Perspective from Interstate 75 north
The two-mile guide sign for Exit 165, Junction Interstate 16 east, is posted on the Georgia 74/Mercer University Drive overpass. The downtown area of Macon is served by three Interstate 75 interchanges south of Interstate 16. They are Exit 162, Junction U.S. 80 and Georgia 22, Eisenhower Parkway; Exit 163, Junction Georgia 74, and Exit 164, Junction Business U.S. 41 and Georgia 19, Vineville Avenue. Photo taken 05/28/05.
The intervening exit from northbound Interstate 75 prior to the Interstate 16 interchange is Exit 164, Junction Business U.S. 41 and Georgia 19 (Forsyth Street and Georgia Avenue/Hardeman Avenue). Photo taken 05/28/05.
Northbound Interstate 75 approaches Exit 164, Junction Business U.S. 41 and Georgia 19 (Forsyth Street and Georgia Avenue/Hardeman Avenue). Photo taken 05/28/05.
Use Exit 164 to Business U.S. 41 (cosigned as Georgia 19), which follows a one-way couplet: Forsyth Street (for northbound traffic, even though the street travels southeast) and Georgia Avenue/Hardeman Avenue (for southbound traffic, even though the street travels northwest). Note the pull-through sign for Interstate 75. Unlike the guide signs approaching the Interstate 75/475 split south of Macon, the control city is now Atlanta and does not feature an I-16 trailblazer ... even though Interstate 75 has not yet met Interstate 16. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Interstate 75 northbound passes under Georgia 19 at this overpass. The Interstate 16 terminus interchange is one mile to the north. The next overpass is that of Business U.S. 41, Georgia Avenue. Exit 164 serves this route in conjunction with frontage roads above. Therefore the return ramp from Exit 164 merges onto Interstate 75 northbound ahead. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Use Exit 165 (Junction Interstate 16 east) for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, Harriet Tubman Museum, and Ocmulgee National Monument. Photo taken 05/28/05.
To U.S. 129 north to Gray and Eatonton, follow Interstate 16 east to Exit 1A. Note the use of a text US 129 rather than a shield. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Interstate 75, from the Walnut Street overpass northward, descends into the Ocmulgee River valley and Exit 165 interchange with Interstate 16. Interstate 16 eastbound skirts the northern fringes of downtown Macon before departing the metropolitan area towards greener pastures amid an endless sea of pine forest. The city of Savannah along Georgia's Gold Coast is a 165 mile drive eastward. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Two exit-only lanes are allotted for Exit 165/Interstate 16 eastbound. This photo shows the sign bridge just before the gore point for Interstate 16 on Interstate 75 north. The first three interchanges of Interstate 16 serve the city of Macon and connect with a myriad of U.S. and state highways from downtown. The overpass above is that of U.S. 23/Georgia 87 - Riverside Drive. This highway will interact with Interstate 75 at Exit 171. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Interstate 16 eastbound begins as Interstate 75 curves back to the northwest on its ultimate trek to Atlanta. Interstate 16 meanwhile bends southeast, eventually leveling on an eastward trajectory near Dublin. The next Interstate junction of Interstate 16 is 157 miles to the east at Interstate 95. The interchange between Interstate 16 and Interstate 75 is a directional with no stack. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Perspective from Interstate 75 south
Interstate 16 Junction 1.25 miles guide sign, posted just south of the Exit 167/Georgia 247 northern terminus interchange. The multi-lane highway to the right is that of U.S. 23/Georgia 87 - Riverside Drive. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/06/03).
One-mile guide sign for Interstate 16 west/Exit 165. Note that Macon is shown as a control city, even though Interstate 75 itself has already crossed through the city limits. More accurately the Macon control point should indicate Downtown. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/06/03).
At the Norfolk-Southern Railroad undercrossing, a pair of auxiliary guide signs advises motorists of the lane allocation for Interstate 16 east and 75 south. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/06/03).
The low sun angle of a week before the winter solstice shrouds this set of guide signs for Exit 165/Interstate 16 east on Interstate 75 southbound in darkness. Interstate 16 continues the southeasterly trajectory of Interstate 75 and thus departs from the left. Photo taken 12/15/01.
Now within two weeks of the summer solstice, the same set of signs on Interstate 75 south. Interior cities such as Macon, Montgomery, Columbia, and Jackson tend to reach 100 degrees more often than their coastal counterparts during the Summer months. This is due to the fact that sea breezes tend to level coastal high temperatures in the low to mid 90s, but are not strong enough to penetrate the vast interior. This has nothing to do with roads but does shed some context on the winter to summer comparison of this freeway scene. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/06/03).
Now at the Interstate 16 eastbound beginning from Interstate 75 southbound. The left-hand panel for Interstate 16 indicates the name of which the highway takes, the Jim L. Gillis Highway. Only one lane is allocated for Interstate 16 as Interstate 75 turns to the southwest, maintaining two through lanes. Valdosta, the next city of interest within the state of Georgia for Interstate 75 motorists, is another 150 miles to the south. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/06/03).
Perspective from Interstate 16 east
Following the transition ramp from northbound Interstate 75 to eastbound Interstate 16, the freeway immediately crosses the Ocmulgee River on a steel deck girder bridge. Photo taken 05/28/05.
The first exit along eastbound Interstate 16 is Exit 1A, Junction U.S. 23-129 and Georgia 49. U.S. 129 follows Gray Highway north to Gray, while U.S. 23 travels northwest into downtown Macon and southeast to Cochran. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Eastbound Interstate 16 reaches Exit 1A, Junction U.S. 23-129 and Georgia 49 (Spring Street). From here, Interstate 16 generally follows U.S. 80 east toward Jeffersonville, Dublin, and Savannah. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Eastern Terminus - Georgia 204 - Savannah, Georgia
Perspective from Interstate 16 east
Interstate 16 east enters its final mile in the city of Savannah. Three options are available at this point. The first is to take Exit 165 for the 37th Street Connector. This route joins Georgia 204 along 37th Street as the state highway migrates east to Abercorn Street. Abercorn Street is a divided highway with anywhere from four to eight lanes in the Savannah metropolitan area. The route is heavily traveled and has long been the main commercial strip for the city. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Eastbound Interstate 16 and Exit 165 (Junction Georgia 204, 37th Street Connector) split at this point; the next two options follow. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Passing under the connector from westbound Georgia 204 to westbound Interstate 16, eastbound Interstate 16 approaches Exit 166, Junction U.S. 17 and Georgia Spur 404. Photo taken 11/11/06.
A Savannah visitors center is available via Exit 166. Once on Exit 166, follow the signs to Louisville Road. Photo taken 05/29/05.
Use Exit 166 (Junction U.S. 17 and Georgia Spur 404) to the Talmadge Bridge over the Savannah River and to Hutchinson Island. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Beyond the Exit 165 departure Interstate 16 splits between two prongs. The eastern prong continues the Interstate 16 mainline into downtown Savannah to Montgomery Street north with a ramp also to Gaston Street east/Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard south. The northern prong came into existence with the opening of the new Savannah River bridge of U.S. 17. This route gives a direct limited access connection to U.S. 17 into South Carolina. Originally traffic took West Boundary Street to the former Alternate U.S. 17 to cross the original Eugene Talmadge Bridge over the Savannah River. The northern prong is dubbed U.S. 17/Georgia Spur 404 (and is profiled separately below). The number stems from the hidden Georgia 404 which encompasses all of Interstate 16. Exits to Gwinnett Street and Louisville Road are provided via U.S. 17/Georgia Spur 404. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Perspective from Interstate 16 east ("Eastern Prong")
Immediately after U.S. 17 splits toward the Talmadge Bridge, eastbound Interstate 16 prepares to end. The penultimate exit from Interstate 16 is Exit 167A, which transitions onto Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. The main lanes continue straight ahead to Montgomery Street (Exit 167B), where the eastbound lanes end. Photo taken 11/11/06.
The speed limit drops to 45 miles per hour as Interstate 16 east passes under the transition ramp to U.S. 17 and Georgia Spur 404 north. Photo taken 05/29/05.
Use Exit 167A to the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum and Exit 167B to the Telfair Museum of Art. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Next up is Exit 167A, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard south. Interstate 16 ends ahead, at the point where all traffic must exit onto Exit 167B, Montgomery Street. Traffic utilizing Exit 167B will cross over Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and merge directly onto Montgomery Street northbound at Charlton Street. The Savannah Civic Center is located just two blocks to the north of this merge at Liberty Street. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Continue straight ahead to use Exit 167B to the Savannah College of Art and Design. Photo taken 11/11/06.
View of the end of Interstate 16 as seen from the end of the eastbound lanes. Note the END Interstate 16 shield assembly to the right. Photo taken 11/11/06.
An end shield precedes the transition of the eastbound flyover onto Montgomery Street north. The overpass touches down just ahead of Liberty Street, which becomes Louisville Road one block to the west at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Ahead is the Savannah Civic Center, Historic Downtown and the Savannah College of Art and Design. Photo 11/11/06.
Perspective from U.S. 17 north ("Northern Prong")
Now on the transition ramp from eastbound Interstate 16, there are three exits: Gwinett Street (first ramp), Louisville Road/Visitors Center (second ramp), and U.S. 17 and Georgia Spur 404. Here, Gwinett Street splits off of the Exit 166 ramp. Photo taken 05/29/05.
The Talmadge Bridge comes into view as U.S. 17 and Georgia Spur 404 travel north and prepare to ascend over the Savannah River. Here, the second offramp connects to Louisville Road and the Historic Savannah Visitors Center. Photo taken 05/29/05.
Northbound Georgia Spur 404 and U.S. 17 meet Louisville Road and the Historic Savannah Visitors Center at this offramp. From here, U.S. 17 prepares to cross the river to Hutchinson Island, then cross again into South Carolina. Photo taken 05/29/05.
Crossing over the Savannah Front, northbound U.S. 17 follows the Talmadge Bridge out of Savannah. This creates a high speed connection between Interstate 16 and U.S. 17 through Savannah. From here, the next exit is for Hutchinson Island, followed by the connection into South Carolina. For more (including information on the Talmadge Bridge), continue north on U.S. 17 in Georgia. Photo taken 05/29/05.
Perspective from Hutchinson Island
This Interstate 16 shield, accompanied with an I-95 trailblazer, is found on Hutchinson Island at the foot of the Talmadge Bridge. Turn right to follow U.S. 17 south to Savannah and to Interstate 16. Photo taken 05/29/05.
Perspective from U.S. 17 south
The first Savannah interchange joins U.S. 17 and Georgia 404 Spur southbound with Georgia 25 Connector (Oglethorpe Avenue) at the south end of the Talmadge Bridge. Georgia 25 was commissioned to join downtown Savannah and the Talmadge Bridge with Garden City and Georgia 25 (former U.S. 17). Photo taken 05/29/05.
Georgia 25 Connector represents the only departure point of U.S. 17 and Georgia 404 Spur southbound for downtown Savannah. The freeway otherwise defaults onto Interstate 16 westbound ahead of its junction with Interstate 516, U.S. 80, and Georgia 21-25. Interstate 16 continues west from there to meet Interstate 95 at Pooler. Photo taken 05/29/05.
A sweeping loop ramp descends from U.S. 17 and Georgia 404 Spur southbound for the southbound beginning of Georgia 25 Connector. Georgia 25 Connector travels east along Oglethorpe Avenue to the one-way street couplet of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (southbound) and Montgomery Street (northbound). The state highway uses the pair northward to Bay Street and Bay Street west to Garden City and Interstate 516, Georgia 21, and Georgia 25. The highway features north-south cardinal direction banners due to its relation with Georgia 25, a north-south route. Photo taken 05/29/05.
Perspective from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard south
There are two entrances from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard south to Interstate 16 west. The first is a two-lane ramp at the intersection with Selma Street. The second is the ramp Pictured here, which affords MLK Boulevard traffic a second opportunity to access the freeway. This ramp exists to facilitate Taylor Street westbound traffic onto Interstate 16. Photo taken 05/29/05.
Merging onto Interstate 16 from the Taylor Street ramp as traffic from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard at Selma Street enters from the right. An Interstate 95 trailblazer is posted at the Interstate 16 beginning. The junction with Interstate 95 occurs at the Exit 157 cloverleaf interchange, 10 miles to the west. Photo taken 05/29/05.
Perspective from Interstate 16 west
The first westbound Interstate 16 shield. To the right is the Georgia Spur 404 freeway prong to the Savannah River Bridge. There are no westbound off-ramps through to the Interstate 516/U.S. 17-80/Georgia 21/Lynes Parkway junction at Exit 164. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/11/03).
Traffic from U.S. 17 south merges onto Interstate 16 west. An END Georgia Spur 404 shield is posted at the end of the transition ramp. Photo taken 05/29/05.
Perspective from Montgomery Street
This Interstate 16 shield is found along Montgomery Street. The Taylor Street on-ramp to Interstate 16 allows Montgomery Street based traffic the opportunity to access the freeway. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/11/03).

Sources:

  1. Interstate 50th Anniversary Fact of the Day http://www.interstate50th.org/history/2006-09-22.shtml: "On September 22, 1978, the final segment of I-16 in Georgia specifically the 25.5 miles spanning Emanuel, Candler, and Bulloch Counties in the Peach State was opened to traffic. Altogether, that 166.81-mile-long highway stretches from Savannah on the Atlantic coast to I-75 at the city of Macon. The route has the distinction of being only one of 13 two-digit highways in the Interstate System that are both continuous and located only within a single state. Officially named the James Gillis, Sr., Memorial Highway after a longtime Georgia Highway Department director, I-16 is also both an important economic corridor and vital hurricane evacuation route."
  2. "10 events that shaped our region." Macon Telegraph, September 30, 2012.

Page Updated July 6, 2015.

Mileage

State Georgia
Mileage 166.81
Cities Macon, Savannah
Junctions Interstate 75, Interstate 95, Interstate 516
Source: December 31, 2014 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
The 1962 Rand McNally North American Road Atlas showed Interstate 16 proposed on an alignment close to U.S. 80. This alignment was shown through to at least the 1964 edition.
Interstate 16 eventually opened through the Savannah area on November 24, 1967.2
1964-65 Georgia Official Highway Map
Construction on the first segment of Interstate 16 started in March 1963 on a 16.2-mile section through Laurens and western Treutlen Counties. The portion between U.S. 319 & 441 and U.S. 221 opened to traffic on October 11, 1966.2
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