Interstate 16

I-16 Georgia
History
East End
West End

Overview

Interstate 16 is 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, I-16 serves commuting interests to U.S. 129 (Gray Highway) and U.S. 23/80 (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 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 to the cloverleaf interchange with I-95. Construction underway from mid 2019 to 2022 rebuilds this exchange by adding flyover ramps to replace grade level loop ramps with I-95 southbound. The I-16/I-95 Improvement Project also widens I-16 to six lanes and adds a c/d roadway along I-95 northbound at Exit 99.

Beyond the exchange with I-95, Interstate 16 reaches the Savannah city limits, passing by industrial areas to I-516, a urban spur between Garden City, Hunter Army Airfield and Midtown Savannah. U.S. 17 combines with Interstate 16 beyond I-516 as the freeway advances east toward Historic Downtown. U.S. 17/SR 404 Spur branch north from I-16 to Hutchinson Island and the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge spanning the Savannah River.

Parallel 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.

I-16/I-75 Improvement Project

The exchange joining I-16’s west end with Interstate 75 dates back to 1962. Construction upgrading it to a systems interchange commenced in Fall 2016 and extends to 2024. The six phase project was first studied in the early 1980s with preliminary engineering in 1998. $380 million in construction4 shifts the left exit ramps from I-75 south to I-16 east and from I-16 west to I-75 south to right side ramps. Collector distributor roadways are being built along I-75 south from I-16 to U.S. 41BU/SR 19 (Hardeman Avenue / Forsyth Street) and on both sides of I-16 to Exits 1 and 2.

The GaDOT I-16/I-75 Improvement Project web site details the six phases:

  • Phase 1 – Costing $63 million, the project through Summer 2021 improved 1.5 miles of I-16 eastbound from I-75 to U.S. 80.
  • Phase 1B – $12 million in mitigation improvements to the Pleasant Hill neighborhood adjacent to I-75. Work was completed in Summer 2018.
  • Phase 2 – Operational improvements to 1.02 miles of I-75 northbound between Hardeman Avenue and the exchange with I-16.
  • Phase 3 – Coupled with Phase 2 through Winter 2021, $156 million in construction completes rebuilding I-75 northbound at the interchange with I-16.
  • Phase 4 – Bids for construction to complete the three mile rebuilding of I-16 eastbound started in phase 1 are scheduled for 2021.
  • Phase 5 – 2.7 miles of capacity and operational improvements to westbound I-16, scheduled for contract bidding in 2021.
  • Phase 6 – Scheduled for bidding in 2023, capacity improvements for I-75 between I-16 and Pierce Avenue (Exit 167) and construction of a 1,600 foot long Norfolk Southern Railroad tunnel under the freeway.

Route Information

  • East End – Savannah, GA

  • West End – Macon, GA

  • Branch Routes – 1

  • Mileage – 166.81

  • Cities – Macon, Dublin, Savannah

  • Junctions

Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List

I-16 Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT)

The 1962 Rand McNally North American Road Atlas showed Interstate 16 proposed on an alignment close to U.S. 80. This alignment was shown 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 long 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

I-16/75 Improvement Project - Phase Map

I-16 Ramp Removal Study – Savannah

Two alternatives are being studied by the Savannah Planning Commission for the removal of the Interstate 16 spur east from U.S. 17 to Montgomery Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Savannah. These must be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) for final approval. Both call for the dismantling of the freeway lanes and ramps east of U.S. 17 /SR 404 Spur with the addition of two new ramps at the partial interchange with SR 25 Spur further north. A boulevard may be built in place of the former I-16, or a new street and wye interchange from I-16.

Future Plans

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 at-grade highway in Georgia. Designated Georgia State Route 540, the Fall Line Freeway extends east from U.S. 80 at Geneva along SR 96 to SR 49CO west of Fort Valley. SR 49CO and SR 49 extend the Fall Line Freeway northeast to Interstate 75 at Byron (Exit 149).

History

The freeway at Macon was constructed between 1966 and 1968.1 Another 12.5 mile section was completed between U.S. 221 (Exit 78) and U.S. 1 (Exit 90) on December 19, 1977.2 The final section of Interstate 16, through Emanuel, Candler, and Bulloch Counties, opened on September 22, 1978, completing the route between Macon and Savannah.3

Highway Guides

East End – Montgomery St / Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd – Savannah, Georgia

I-16 East at Georgia State Route 204 US 17 and Montgomery St

I-16 east at SR 204 - Savannah, GA

The final mile of I-16 east connects with the 37th Street Connector at Exit 165. Formerly SR 204, this expressway spur links with 37th Street east to Abercorn Street. Abercorn Street comprises a busy four to eight lane commercial arterial from Midtown Savannah to South Side Savannah. 01/05/19

I-16 east at SR 204 - Savannah, GA

Eastbound Interstate 16 splits with 37th Street Connector (former SR 204) at a wye interchange (Exit 165). 01/05/19

I-16 east/US 17 north split - Savannah, GA

Interstate 16 curves northeast to Exit 166, which serves both Gwinnett Street and U.S. 17/SR 404 Spur north to Hutchinson Island. 01/05/19

I-16 east/US 17 north split - Savannah, GA

I-16 branches east toward Historic Downtown Savannah while U.S. 17/SR 404 Spur wind northward outside Downtown to the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge into Jasper County, South Carolina. 01/05/19

I-16 east at MLK Blvd - Savannah, GA

The speed limit reduces to 45 miles per hour as Interstate 16 passes through the wye interchange with U.S. 17/SR 404 Spur north. 01/05/19

I-16 east at MLK Blvd - Savannah, GA

Exit 167B follows for Gaston Street east to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. The main lanes continue northward onto Montgomery Street (Exit 167B). 01/05/19

I-16 east at Montgomery St - Savannah, GA

A flyover (Earl T. Shinoster Bridge) takes I-16 over both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Taylor Street ahead of the left side merge with Montgomery Street north. 01/05/19

I-16 east at Montgomery St - Savannah, GA

An end shield precedes the transition of the flyover onto Montgomery Street north ahead of Liberty Street west to Louisville Road. Ahead is the Savannah Civic Center, Historic Downtown and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). 01/03/14

Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard south at I-16

MLK Blvd south at I-16 - Savannah, GA

Two lanes branch away from southbound Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard onto Interstate 16 ahead of the traffic light with Taylor Street. 01/05/19

MLK Blvd south at I-16 - Savannah, GA - 2014

Replaced overhead at the westbound beginning of I-16 from MLK Boulevard south. 01/03/14

MLK Blvd south at I-16 - Savannah, GA

Taylor Street provides westbound access to Interstate 16 from Montgomery Street north beyond this shield assembly. The exchange joining I-16 with I-95 lies 8.8 miles to the west. 01/03/14

I-16 West at US 17

I-16 - Jim Gillis Historic Savannah Highway

The easternmost portion of I-16, from Historic Downtown Savannah to I-95, is designated the Jim Gillis Historic Savannah Parkway. The remainder of the freeway west to Macon is James Gillis, Sr. Memorial Highway. 01/03/14

I-16 west at US 17/SR 404 Spur - Savannah, GA

The first westbound Interstate 16 shield precedes the merge with U.S. 17/SR 404 Spur west. There are no westbound off-ramps until Exit 164 to I-516/U.S. 80-SR 21/25. 01/05/19

I-16 west at 37th St Connector - Savannah, GA

SR 404 Spur concludes beyond this I-16/95 shield assembly at the wye interchange with the 37th Street Connector (former SR 204). 05/26/19

US 17 South at I-16

US 17 south at SR 25 Connector - Savannah, GA

Lowering from the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge, U.S. 17/SR 404 Spur south advance to a loop ramp for SR 25 Spur (Oglethorpe Avenue) for Downtown Savannah. The freeway defaults onto I-16 west in 1.75 miles. 05/26/19

US 17 south at I-16 - Savannah, GA

A half diamond interchange adds traffic to U.S. 17/SR 404 Spur south from Louisville Road ahead of the wye interchange with Interstate 16 west here. 01/05/19

I-16 west at Gwinnett St - Savannah, GA

Interstate 16 west overtakes U.S. 17/SR 404 Spur south by the entrance ramp from Gwinnett Street. 01/05/19

I-16 East End Throwback

All guide signs along Interstate 16 eastbound from I-516 to Downtown Savannah were replaced by 2018. 11/13/06

West End – Macon, Georgia

I-16 West at I-75

I-16 west at I-75 - Macon, GA

The last mainline exit along Interstate 16 westbound is with SR 22 (2nd Street) for Downtown Macon. SR 22 ties into U.S. 23, U.S. 129 and SR 49 just to the north. 05/25/21

I-16 west at I-75 - Macon, GA

The eastbound c/d roadway takes shape during Phase 3 construction of the I-16/I-75 Interchange Improvement Project. Phases 4/5 rebuild the main roadways for Interstate 16 between Walnut Creek and I-75. 05/25/21

I-16 west at I-75 - Macon, GA

I-75 travels northwest from Macon to Forsyth, McDonough and Atlanta while I-75 south passes Downtown Macon just to the west en route to Perry, Cordele and Tifton. 05/25/21

I-75 South at I-16

I-75 south at I-16/SR 540 - Macon, GA

I-75 was expanded to six lanes from Arkwright Road (Exit 169) south to the previous Macon city line in 2010-13. The remainder south to I-16 will be expanded during Phase 6 of the I-16/I-75 Interchange Improvement Project. 05/25/21

I-75 south at I-16/SR 540 - Macon, GA

Leading southeast from SR 247 (Pierce Avenue), I-75 runs between U.S. 23/SR 87 (Riverside Drive) and the Ocmulgee River ahead of Exit 165 for I-16 east. 06/12/17

I-75 south at I-16/SR 540 - Macon, GA

One mile ahead of the three-wye interchange (Exit 165) with Interstate 16 on I-75 south. 05/25/21

I-75 south at I-16/SR 540 - Macon, GA

I-75 spans a Norfolk Southern Railroad line leading into the exchange with Interstate 16. A 1,600 foot long tunnel will be built for the railroad during Phase 6 of the I-16/I-75 Interchange Improvements Project. 05/25/21

I-75 south at I-16 - Macon, GA

A second diagrammatic sign preceded Left Exit 165 for Interstate 16. Two interchanges connect I-16 with Downtown Macon before the rural drive east to Savannah. 07/05/14

I-75 south at I-16 - Macon, GA

Interstate 75 turns south from I-16 (Jim L. Gillis Highway) to Valdosta, located 150 miles from Macon. 07/05/14

I-75 North at I-16

I-75/SR 540 north at I-16 - Macon, GA

Two miles ahead of Exit 165 with I-16 east along I-75/SR 540 north at the SR 74 (Mercer University Drive) overpass. Three interchanges join I-75 with the Downtown Macon area preceding I-16. 05/25/21

I-75 north at I-16 - Macon, GA

Interstate 75 travels one mile north from a split diamond interchange with U.S. 41BU (Forsyth Street / Hardeman Avenue) to the exchange with I-16 east. 11/07/14

I-75 north at I-16 - Macon, GA

Interstate 75 descends into the Ocmulgee River valley from the Walnut Street overpass northward to the three-wye interchange (Exit 165) with I-16. 11/07/14

I-75 north at I-16 - Macon, GA

Phase 2 of the I-16/I-75 Interchange Improvement Project added a c/d roadway for Exit 165 to I-16 east from Hardeman Avenue northward. 05/25/21

I-75 north at I-16 - Macon, GA

SR 540 (Fall Line Freeway) accompanies I-16 east to U.S. 80 en route to Augusta. I-16 connects Macon with the city of Savannah and I-95 south to Georgia’s Golden Isles in 165 miles. 11/07/14

I-16 West End Throwback

I-16 West at I-75

I-16 west at I-75 - 2005

The final Interstate 16 west shield assembly appeared just after the entrance ramps from U.S. 23-129/SR 49. 05/28/05

I-16 west at I-75 - 2005

Interstate 16 was previously expanded to six overall lanes between U.S. 23/129 and Exit 1 with I-75 south. 05/28/05

I-16 west at I-75 - 2005

End Interstate 16 shields preceded the separation of ramps for I-75 north and south. 05/28/05

I-75South at I-16

I-75 south at I-16 - 2003

This set of overheads for Exit 165 with I-16 were eventually replaced by a diagrammatic sign. Photo by Chris Patriarca (07/06/03).

I-75 south at I-16 - 2003

Replaced overhead posted a half mile ahead of Exit 165. Interstate 75 turns to the west of Downtown Macon as I-16 continues the southeasterly trajectory from I-75 along the Ocmulgee River. Photo by Chris Patriarca (07/06/03).

Sources:

  1. “10 events that shaped our region.” Macon Telegraph, September 30, 2012.
  2. 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.”
  3. “Completion near for interstate road systems,” Rome News-Tribune, November 14, 1977.
  4. “I-16/I-75 Interchange construction to start fall 2016.” 13WMAZ, November 12, 2015.

Page updated July 7, 2021.