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.
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.