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‘Freight Alley’ wants in on Georgia’s truck-only lane project

Non-tolled, truck-only lanes first-of-its-kind project in US

The CVL project is part of an $11 billion freight mobility plan. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

A Chattanooga, Tennessee-based business partnership is lobbying the state of Georgia to include “Freight Alley” in its plan to open truck-only lanes along Interstate 75.

Thrive Regional Partnership, which lists truckload carrier Covenant (NASDAQ: CVLG) as one of its investors, submitted comments to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) earlier this month asking that the agency consider the benefits of extending its commercial vehicle lanes (CVL) project along the I-75 corridor in northwest Georgia.

The $1.8 billion project, unveiled in 2018, involves building two, barrier-separated, non-tolled truck-only northbound lanes parallel to I-75 beginning at the I-75/I-475 interchange north of Macon and ending near the State Route 20 interchange in Henry County, a distance of approximately 41 miles. A video overview of the project can be found here.

The project – the first of its kind in the country, according to GDOT – is expected to improve northbound freight movement, reduce potential crashes and provide reliable travel times for drivers and freight operators along one of Georgia’s most heavily traveled freight corridors. It will be paid for through a public-private partnership, using both federal money – including competitive grants – and state money.

CVL project overview. Source: GDOT

However, Thrive Regional Partnership, which has a mission to “address critical infrastructure challenges involving the movement of people, products and data” around the northeast Alabama, northwest Georgia and southeast Tennessee region, “wanted to take that opportunity to encourage GDOT to consider a similar study or to examine the benefit of adding [commercial vehicle lanes] to the I-75 corridor north of Atlanta into our area,” Shannon Millsaps, director of operations for Thrive Regional Partnership, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “because what we know about this area is that we are sort of the heart of ‘Freight Alley.’”

The CVL project is part of GDOT’s Major Mobility Investment Program (MMIP), an $11 billion project identified in 2016 to create additional capacity, improve freight movement, enhance safety and provide more reliable trip times.

Thrive also recommended:

  • Considering truck parking strategies to enhance safety for truck drivers and motorists.
  • Scenario modeling to enhance multimodal freight transportation.
  • Incorporating broadband infrastructure where possible to increase internet access in rural communities.
  • Partnering with the environmental sector to ensure the infrastructure mitigates impact on the natural environment and is resilient to climate change.

“For all of these considerations, Thrive believes that cross-sector, multi-jurisdictional partnerships will be crucial to the success of GDOT’s Major Mobility Investment Program as a whole, as well as the CVL project, providing vital understanding of operational challenges along the freight system,” the group stated. “Thrive encourages GDOT to actively and intentionally engage the private, public and non-public perspectives throughout the process.”

5 things to know about the I-75 CVL

  1. Adds northbound truck-only lanes for approximately 41 miles on I-75 from the Macon area to the McDonough area.
  2. Maintains existing general-purpose lanes for passenger vehicles while providing physical separation to enhance safety. 
  3. Projected to reduce delays by 12% for commercial vehicles and 6% in general purpose lanes during peak periods. 
  4. Reduces maintenance costs on general purpose lanes due to the separation of freight and passenger vehicle traffic. 
  5. One of the large-scale MMIP projects to improve transportation in Georgia.

GDOT is currently evaluating project limits, developing design standards, studying existing and future freight and passenger traffic patterns, and identifying potential access locations, a GDOT official confirmed earlier this month, with a goal of completing a concept document by the end of December.

CVL project timeline. Source: GDOT

Concurrent with a concept development phase, GDOT will be focused on preparing environmental documents needed to obtain federal approval, expected in the third quarter of 2022. The goal is to have a developer selected by the first quarter of 2023, construction starting in the third quarter of 2024 and lanes opening in 2028.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.