In July 2010, the Federal Highway Administration began the study for Interstate 3 that was authorized and funded by the 2005 transportation authorization act known as SAFETEA-LU, which directed FHWA to:
“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).” (SAFETEA-LU § 1927.)
As one of their first acts, FHWA and its contractor appointed an Expert Working Group to advise them during the study process. The Expert Working Group includes mostly federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and National Park Service along with a few state and local government agencies and WaysSouth, the successor to the Stop I-3 Coalition. WaysSouth is the only nongovernmental organization serving on the group.
The study will begin with data collection, followed by identification of potential routes and designs for the proposed highway, including at least one through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Once routes and designs have been selected, the study will estimate the costs and necessary steps to construct each proposed alternative route. Finally, there is an option for additional “sub-studies” on various economic, social, and environmental factors going beyond the scope of the Congressionally-mandated study. There will be opportunities for public involvement during the study, and WaysSouth will help ensure that those opportunities are well-publicized. The first phase of the study is expected to be completed in mid- to late-2011. Optional sub-studies could take up to another year.
According to the FHWA, there is no predetermined outcome of the study, and it could ultimately recommend that I-3 not be built and no further studies be conducted. Until then, however, I-3 remains a real threat.
As the study progresses, WaysSouth will continue our advocacy and education efforts aimed at both the FHWA and the public, seeking to put an end to the folly of I-3. We will press for a robust public participation component in the study process. And, as the process generates documents, we will post them here. Check back often for news!
The FHWA’s contract scope of work is here: FHWA I-3 Statement of Work (PDF)
The FHWA has identified four potential corridors for I-3. In this memo, it rejects 3 of them as infeasible and announces that it will proceed to the cost analysis phase on only the westernmost corridor. Alternatives Technical Memorandum (PDF).
Interstate 3 is mandated to be studied by Section 1927 of SAFETEA-LU, the 2005 Transportation Authorization Act. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has been charged with carrying out that study. The FHWA maintains a webpage dedicated to Section 1927 and the I-3 corridor here.
Expert Working Group Meetings
Below are links to materials from the meetings of the Expert Working Group. Keep in mind that the concepts here are presented in draft form and are subject to considerable discussion and change. For instance, note the change in the extent of the study area between the first and second presentations.
Meeting #1, September 16, 2010
Meeting #2, December 14, 2010
Meeting #3, March 8, 2011
Meeting #4, April 28, 2011