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 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 full cloverleaf interchange with Interstate 95. Construction underway from mid-2019 to 2022 rebuilds this exchange by adding flyover ramps to replace the grade level loop ramps with I-95 southbound. The I-16/I-95 Improvement Project will also widen I-16 to six lanes and add a c/d roadway along I-95 northbound at Exit 99.
Beyond the busy exchange with I-95, Interstate 16 reaches the Savannah city limits, passing by industrial areas to I-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 SR 204 (37th Street Connector) and Hutchinson Island via U.S. 17 & SR 404 Spur north to the Talmadge Bridge.
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
Work to rebuild the 1962 interchange at Interstate 16’s west end is slated for construction between Fall 2016 and 2024. The six-phase project was first studied in the early 1980s with preliminary engineering in 1998. $380 million in construction4 will shift the left side 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 will be added including along I-75 south from I-16 to U.S. 41 & 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 improves 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.
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)
Source: 2017 AADT – GDOT Traffic Analysis & Data Application (TADA)
Interstate 16 eventually opened through the Savannah area on November 24, 1967.2
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
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.
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 SR 96 to SR 49 Connector west of Fort Valley. SR 49C and SR 49 extend the Fall Line Freeway northeast to Interstate 75 at Byron (Exit 149).
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
East End – Montgomery St / Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd – Savannah, Georgia
East at and Montgomery St
The final mile of Interstate 16 east connects with the 37th Street Connector at Exit 165. This expressway spur links with SR 204 (37th Street) as it progresses east to Abercorn Street. Abercorn Street comprises a busy four to eight lane commercial arterial from Midtown Savannah to South Side Savannah. Photo taken 01/05/19.
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 (SCAD). Photo taken 01/03/14.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard south at
West End – Macon, Georgia
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. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/06/03).
Interstate 16 carries six overall lanes between U.S. 23 & 129 and Exit 1 with Interstate 75 south. Photo taken 05/28/05.
End Interstate 16 shields appear at the separation of ramps for I-75 north and south. I-75 ventures north from Macon to Forsyth, McDonough and Atlanta while I-75 south takes motorists just west of Downtown Macon en route to Perry, Cordele and Tifton. Photo taken 05/28/05.
West End Throwback
- “10 events that shaped our region.” Macon Telegraph, September 30, 2012.
- 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.”
- “Completion near for interstate road systems,” Rome News-Tribune, November 14, 1977.
- “I-16/I-75 Interchange construction to start fall 2016.” 13WMAZ, November 12, 2015.
Page updated May 28, 2019.