Updates from the Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics

Photo of tractor trailer on state route 155 in Luella (Georgia DOT photo)The Georgia General Assembly created the Georgia Commission on Freight & Logistics during this year’s session to study the existing freight infrastructure in the state and make recommendations about its long-term viability and continued success. The commission has been meeting since August and is expected to conclude its work before the end of the year.

Henry County is represented on the commission by state representative Dale Rutledge. Here’s a couple highlights compiled from the commission’s presentations and meetings to date.

Nearly a quarter-million trucks travel between Savannah and metro Atlanta each year.

In October, the Atlanta Regional Commission presented an overview about freight movement within metro Atlanta to the commission. The region’s freight mobility plan was last updated in 2016.

Over 151 million tons of freight moved into, out of, and within the Atlanta region in 2013. That number is projected to increase to 266 million tons by year 2040. Approximately 83% of freight travels by truck, an additional 17% by rail, and less than one percent by air.

An estimated 162,500 trucks travel between the port of Savannah and metro Atlanta each year (2013 figures). When considering other destinations in Chatham County, that number climbs to 235,250 trucks per year. Rounded off per day, it’s nearly one-thousand tractor trailers per weekday making the journey with many of them passing through Henry County.

Presentation slide showing congestion queues on SR 155 (Atlanta Regional Commission photo)

The ARC included within its presentation an overview of the congestion at state route 155 / exit 216. Peak hour congestion causes maximum average queue lengths of 1.77 miles in the southbound direction and 3.59 miles traveling northbound.

Georgia DOT has $122 million dollars budgeted to widen state route 155 between Georgia 42 and Hampton-Locust Grove Road. The first project, between SR 42 and I-75, is in preliminary engineering with an open house expected in spring 2020.

The state is also working with the city of Locust Grove to construct a new interstate exit at Bethlehem Road. It’s been estimated that fifty percent of truck traffic on highway 155 will divert to the new exit when it opens.

Constructing one grade separation in each city with a Class I railroad would cost $4 billion dollars.

Last month, Georgia DOT presented its overview about the state’s freight network to the commission and provided cost estimates on future needs. These estimates looked at the state system only, excluding local roadways or bridges impacted by freight travel.

Over the next thirty years, GDOT forecasts investment needs worth $135.7 – $153.3 billion. With existing funding expected to invest $31.8 billion, there’s an unmet need valued at over one-hundred billion dollars. Broken down on an annual basis, the unmet need equates to $3.4 – $4 billion in new yearly spending. For comparison, GDOT’s annual budget is two billion dollars today.

Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell McMurry highlighted the cost estimate to provide one grade-separated railroad crossing per city. For the 268 Georgia cities located on a Class I railroad (CSX or Norfolk Southern), the projected cost would be four billion dollars.

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