Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Reorganization of Georgia's State Highway System: State Route Renumbering and Farm-To-Market Route Designations (Part 2)

In general, a three tiered highway system will require a heavily modified route designation scheme, because the current state route system was not designed to allow for any significant expansion.  With many more routes than are currently assigned, the current sequential system will quickly climb into four digits requiring a more systematic approach to assure that primary state highways are clearly defined, and farm-to-market designations are easier to remember/understand.  In addition, roadways defined as functionally local that are not defined as part of the secondary highway system should be renumbered or denumbered so that they cannot be confused with state highways or farm-to-market roads.  This will all be detailed in a separate post that explains the modifications needed to make the state highway system work better.


Currently, Georgia has painted itself into a corner in terms of route numbering.  With two route series currently blocked from regular usage (400 and 500 series) and the state nearing its maximum of routes under 400, even a modest increase in state highway mileage threatens to throw the system into four digit territory.  In order to avoid this, some or many numbers will have to be repeated to avoid four digit routes.  Even worse is that Georgia's state highway marker is not designed in such a way to handle more than three digits.  A redesign of the route sign or a separate route marker for each system will be required to make that work, and preferably the Georgia state route sign should be limited to primary state routes if at all possible.  In addition, the policies regarding Georgia route signs need to change in that 30" x 24" sizes are used if more than two digits are shown not only to accommodate larger route designations, but also to make sure that state primary route signs do not appear less important than farm-to-market routes.

30" x 24" state route signs have been routinely used in contractor installs planned in highway projects, but in maintenance the signs do not look like this.  If Georgia is to develop a two-tiered highway system, route signs over two digits will have to be larger such as this one.

At present, the state has a traditional three-tiered numbering system that includes state highways, county roads and city streets.  Each has their own numbering system that is mostly unsigned and unknown to the general public, but the local numbering schemes are laid out by the state.  The new system will number both state primary routes and state secondary routes with anywhere from 9,500 to 26,000 miles of numbered routes assigned where nothing at all is presently posted.  While it is possible that these new routes may remain partially or completely unsigned as they are today under local control, they will still need to be designated differently in order to distinguish those roads from other local roads and streets.  They also need to be defined based on routes instead of unique segments like they are today.  This means that secondary highways will overlap other routes if necessary similar to how state highways work today.  One secondary state road may travel across multiple counties, share short distances with other routes where intersections do not line up and may reach 25 miles or more while another may be less than two blocks long.

What this also means is that perhaps Georgia should scrap its current county road and city street numbering system.  The system in its current form is confusing, and it is reflected in the way that Google at times assigns these county roads as if they are state highways.  While exceptions will exist where secondary routes may have lower number, the proposed overall rule for route numbering is as follows:

  • State primary routes (1-499)
  • Farm-to-market routes (500-1999)
  • Local county roads (2000-9999)
  • Local city streets (10000+)

In almost every county, these roads now have names meaning a county road number is no longer necessary in all but the poorest rural counties.  In addition, these numbers are almost never posted.  Thus, defining a farm-to-market highway as a route number (FM-631/S-631) is necessary, but defining the example of some subdivision street known as Watson Drive as County Road 300 is not.  In fact, not all states even use county road numbers for functionally local roads and streets.  As it is, county road numbers should only be used to define longer and more important routes.  In those cases they should have logical designations that form useful routes, retain designations when crossing county lines and should be posted either with regular route markers or low profile route signs.  In other words, secondary route numbers should be laid out in a fashion as if they are a state highway.


In general, many reforms need to be made to existing routes.  This means the removal and reassignment of many routes to make the system more simple and easy to follow.  State route designations should be based on utility regardless of any historic precedents.

State highway numbering

In general, Georgia's state highway system needs to be substantially renumbered.  This means:

  • Eliminating state overlaps with U.S. highways (e.g. U.S. 19/GA 3)
  • Replacing redundant state route designations with unique designations (e.g. I-85/GA 85 and U.S. 27/GA 27)
  • Adding/extending/rerouting U.S. highways along principal arterials (e.g. U.S. 72 on previous post)
  • Reducing the number of bannered routes, especially longer or confusing ones (e.g. GA 60 Spur)
  • Simplifying complicated state routes (e.g. GA 82, GA 211)
  • Renumbering roads with new numbers where necessary to reduce discrepancies (e.g. GA 103/116)
  • Avoiding and/or removing unnecessary and lengthy overlaps (e.g. GA 154)
  • Retaining state designations along county roads if the new road location is longer and more confusing (e.g. GA 70)
  • New state route designations should be on the odd-even system meaning that east-west routes are even and north-south routes are odd; existing routes will be grandfathered (e.g. GA 390 for east-west and GA 391 for north-south)

Unneccessary state overlaps, such as GA 11 following U.S. 129 for a significant distance, only clutter the roadway and cause public confusion.  Routes like this should be truncated or removed where they follow U.S. routes.  In this example, U.S. 19 and U.S. 129 should mean the same thing as GA 19 and GA 129.  However, doing this involves substantial renumbering of state routes that carry those numbers.

In 1963, GA 103 was truncated to become a very short route connecting West Point to GA 219.  GA 219 south of the intersection shown here is, in fact, a renumbering of GA 103.  The problem is that now GA 103 and 116 end into each other.  Since GA 116 is much longer, GA 116 should be extended along and replace GA 103 to remove this discrepancy.

Too many bannered routes lead to public confusion.  In many instances, it would be best if a bannered route was renumbered with a regular route number.  In the image here, GA 5 Connector is not a bannered route of GA 5 but instead is a connector to a business route!  Freeing up the 400 and 500 series route numbers for regular route designations would help make it possible to eliminate situations like this. 

In general, retired state route numbers may be reused as long as there is no possibility that the route that formerly carried that designation could be reassigned with that same number as a farm-to-market route.  This means that the roadway that formerly carried that number meets the following criteria:

  • A former route was replaced with another route designation but is still a state highway (e.g. GA 258, now GA 54)
  • A former route was closed and abandoned (e.g. GA 175)
  • A former route was on a road that is now functionally local (e.g. GA 217 and GA 226)
  • A former route no longer has the characteristics or connectivity to have its original route designation restored (e.g. GA 209 and GA 349)
  • A former route designation is not already reassigned on another state route elsewhere in the state (e.g. GA 300 and GA 333)

Roads such as GA 258 shown here were long replaced by other state routes and are unlikely to ever be reassigned with its original designation.  This means they should be used on either new routes or as renumbering of existing routes.

Former routes such as GA 217 shown here, while still open to traffic as a county road, are unlikely to ever be restored along their original route.  Decommissioned in 1969, GA 217 is today still an unpaved road and functionally local meaning that it was never intended to be a connecting route and certainly not a primary state highway.

The proposed elimination of state overlaps will be eventually discussed in a separate post.  With this elimination of state overlaps and addition of many U.S. routes, many numbers will come available allowing harder to remember three digit designations to be replaced with 1-2 digit route numbers when the route in question is a major arterial highway.  This change is needed to remove confusion as to which highway number is commonly used.  An example of how this is problematic is the overlap of U.S. 23 and GA 87 north of Macon.  Locals refer to the road as "Highway 87" while people unfamiliar refer to it as U.S. 23 leading to difficulty providing directions for both business purposes and emergencies.  Furthermore, this will also eliminate many available highway designations to avoid having state routes that share the same number as U.S. routes.  This means if a new U.S. route is created that happens to have the same number as a state route, the state designation carrying that same number must be retired and replaced with another number unless it happens to be part of the same route.  Examples are listed below:

  • Since the state already has a U.S. 41, GA 41 must be renumbered
  • If U.S. 327 is created, GA 327 must be renumbered
  • GA 85 must be renumbered since it is confused with I-85
  • GA 1 completely overlaps U.S. 27 so it must be removed as a route.
  • Route numbering should be set up so that U.S. 41=GA 41 and I-75=GA 75
  • U.S. 378 is unofficially extended west along present-day GA 44 as GA 378 between Washington and Union Point
  • Bannered routes will also need to be renumbered to reflect this change.  This means that they should either be renumbered to a regular route number of have the number changed to reflect the U.S. or interstate route.  This means that GA 1 Loop in Rome either becomes GA 27 Loop or it gains a whole new roadway designation.

Even though GA 41 and U.S. 41 do not meet, the redundancy causes confusion for unfamiliar motorists or motorists who do not understand the nuances of route signage (state/U.S.).  A motorist might mistake this road as U.S. 41 and drive far out of their way.  Roads like GA 41 here should be renumbered to a new route number that is not used on any other highway in the state.  In some instances, same-numbered routes do meet causing major confusion such as U.S. 27 and GA 27 in Lumpkin.


In addition, the numbering series in question should be dramatically altered to streamline route designations.  Obviously many routes will be grandfathered, but new routes should fall into these categories.  A category was also added for farm-to-market roads.  They include:

  • Routes 1-199
    • Should be used only for roadways designated freeway, principal arterial or rural minor arterial, but existing designations should be grandfathered if not replaced with another route.  
    • May also be used for farm-to-market roads if route number was originally designated as such, roadway is at least major collector and designation is not used on another route unless roadway is a continuation of primary state route or state primary route has a maintenance gap.  
  • Routes 200-399
    • Should be used only for roadways designated urban minor arterial or rural major collector, but existing designations should be grandfathered if not replaced with another route.  
    • May also be used for farm-to-market roads if route number was originally designated as such, roadway is at least minor collector, designation is not used on another route unless roadway is a continuation of primary state route and/or state primary route has a maintenance gap.  
  • Route 400-499
    • May be retained for SR 400, 410 and secret interstate designations, but for the most part interstate designations should be renumbered to match state route designations.  GRIP routes should be renumbered as 400 series routes if used.
    • If interstate designations are changed to match state route designations and GRIP designations retired, numbering series should be freed to use for other state or farm-to-market routes
  • Routes 500-599
    • All existing 500 series routes on GRIP corridors should be renumbered to a 400 series route, grandfathered or revoked.  At present only two of such routes are even posted.  Usage should be transferred to the farm-to-market highway system.

GRIP corridors were always a bad idea even though the color-coding of routes was a fascinating development.  As a means of unifying routes, these numbers were first designated in the late 1980's.  GA 515 in particular was added in 1989 creating an unnecessary overlap along GA 5 and U.S. 76/GA 2.  It has led to confusion in regards to the old routes it replaced, the number is frequently confused with I-575 and worst of all it clogged up an available number series when GRIP corridors are assigned only in multiples of 5.  Before any more routes are signed, the GRIP designations should be revoked using either existing routes or assigning new U.S. routes instead.  

Farm-To-Market Highway Numbering

Farm-to-market highway numbering should be viewed as a continuation of the state highway system, but if desired an alternative numbering scheme may be adapted.  Alternative schemes would include alphanumeric or alphabetical designations, but numbering schemes that start at 1 (duplicating state route numbers) are confusing and should be avoided.  In general, the numbering scheme that is used should follow a pattern where the state is divided into zones where numbers may be used once in each zone and should otherwise be continuous across county and zone lines if part of the same route.

Signage for farm-to-market highways should take two styles: highway route signage and low-profile dog tag-style plaques.  The plaques should be used in cases where regular route signage would clutter the roadway or be confusing such as in dense urban areas.  In urban areas, the route sign may be posted overhead next to the street name or as part of the street name if space is limited.  In rural areas, signs should always be posted as highways unless otherwise noted.

In general, either nine zones averaging 1 million current residents should be used (eventually becoming reorganized GDOT districts) or the existing GDOT districts should be the threshold.  In each zone, numbering rules should be established for each designated secondary state route:

  • 1-399
    • Only permitted when used as a reassignment or extension of a former state (primary) route (e.g. former GA 205 becomes FM-205 or GA 356 extended east to U.S. 441 as FM-356)
    • May only be used if designation does not cause confusion with other area routes (e.g. assigning FM-5 Alt when portions of route are also assigned GA 5 Business)
    • May not be used if state primary route designation is currently in use but is unrelated to former route designation (e.g. GA 300)
    • May include all available bannered designations including ALT, SPUR, BUSINESS, CONNECTOR, BY-PASS, LOOP, etc. (e.g. FM-193 Alt for GA 193)
    • Old alignments may be reassigned their former state route number if roadway is at least five miles long, the designation can be removed from current route, designation rejoins the current route and roadway in question is classified arterial or major collector (e.g. FM-2 on Old U.S. 76 in Fannin and Union Counties)
  • 600-799 (500 series may also be used if GRIP rules change)
    • Used for urban minor arterials and rural major collectors over one mile in length that do not fall entirely within a municipality
    • Used for rural minor collectors and urban collectors over 5 miles in length
    • Also may be used for arterial roads and freeway segments of roads not otherwise on the state primary system
    • May include limited bannered designations including ALT, SPUR, LOOP and CONNECTOR
    • Routes should always be signed with regular route signage (route markers, banners, auxilaries) except in high density urban areas where space is limited
  • 800-899
    • Used for urban minor arterials and rural major collectors less than one mile long that do not fall within a municipality
    • Used for rural minor collectors and urban collectors at least 1-5 miles long that do not fall within a municipality
    • Routes should always be signed with regular route signage (route markers, banners, auxiliaries) except in high density urban areas where space is limited
  • 900-999
    • Used first to mark old alignments of highways originally numbered 1-99 if roadway in question is designated a collector/arterial and is not part of another route
    • E.G. Old GA 1 is Route 901 and Old GA 22 is Route 922
    • 900 series route designations should relate to the original state route number, not the U.S. route number thus Old U.S. 278 in Paulding County is FM 906, not 1278
    • May be used for other collector and arterial roads if other routes numbers are unavailable as long as the second and third digit is not already a route number used within that zone (e.g. 933 cannot be used if GA 33 is within that zone unless it is an old alignment of GA 33)
    • Routes should always be signed with regular route signage (route markers, banners, auxiliaries)
  • 1000-1999
    • Used for arterials and collectors under one mile in length that fall exclusively within a municipality (NOTE: existing route designations would be grandfathered in new municipality)
    • Used for functionally local roads and streets designated as part of the farm-to-market system
    • May also be used for old alignments where route number is over 100 (e.g. 1113 for Old GA 113)
    • May be used for other collector and arterial roads is other routes numbers are unavailable as long second and third digit is not a route number used within that zone (e.g. 1122 cannot be used if GA 122 is within that zone unless it is an old alignment of GA 122)
    • Should only be posted with low-profile dog tag-styled signage when within a municipality or urban area
  • 2000-9999
    • Used for county roads whose maintenance responsibility is deeded to a state, regional or cooperative agency other than the county or city itself
    • Should only be posted with low-profile dog tag-styled signage
  • 10000+
    • Used for city streets whose maintenance responsibility is deeded to a state, regional or cooperative agency other than the county or city itself
    • Should only be posted with low-profile dog tag-styled signage
    • May also be used on county roads in very high population counties if numbers run out

A potential style for a farm-to-market route sign is shown here on Cavender Creek Road in Lumpkin County.  This previously unassigned route follows a major collector road east of Dahlonega.  The signs are not real and were added into the image for effect. (Image from Google Street View).

In this instance, a former route could easily be reassigned as a farm-to-market road with its former designation because it does not cause any confusion in regards to other routes in the area.  No other highways in the region are assigned or were recently assigned as GA 176 (Image from Google Street View)


The changes here are not exactly simple to institute, but they are common sense.  Fortunately this blog is here to continue to give specific example of those changes so that policymakers will not have to try to figure this out on their own.  These ideas are tried and tested with even more specific lists and maps eventually provided for each change.  The new rules on the last two posts are designed to correct decades of bad planning.

Overall, the view of why the highway system ended up how it did was that Georgia became larger than planners envisioned.  The road system was overall laid out with small cities and rural areas in mind, but it ultimately grew into a complicated cluster of roadways that have been increasingly difficult to properly connect.  The plans on this blog will cover specific areas of the state piece-by-piece with the goal of bringing a highway system trapped in the 20th century into the 21st century.

Redefined Responsibilities in a Three-Tiered Structure  

Reorganization of Georgia's State Highway System: Redefined Responsibilities in a Three-Tiered Structure (Part 1)

It should be clear to anybody who lives in Georgia that the state highway system is outmoded and is no longer functional for travel in much of the state.  Much of this has been due to the insistence of retaining a very antiquated method of defining state responsibility, a confusing means of assigning routes and an 18,000 mile cap that has been in place since 1963.  Why 18,000 miles?  What is so damn special about that number?  The possible answer is below with a detailed explanation of what could and should be done to fix it.


Looking back in Georgia history, the issue was always a strong pushback against substantial growth of the highway system.  For a 30 period from the early 1930's to the early 1960's state highway system growth was rapid.  Much of these new routes were not based on logic but instead on politics.  Some areas of the state with more political clout gained a substantial farm-to-market system while others only had major highways under state control.  It was a huge era of road building across much of the nation, and state control became an even bigger deal after the failure of the Rural Roads Authority.

Northeast Georgia had particular political favor during the 1950's and 1960's when it came to state highways with a higher concentration of state highways than other parts of the state.  It is not a particularly populous area, and most of the roads in the area do not deserve to be primary state routes.  GA 60 shown here was a late extension of the route paralleled by two better routes (GA 53 and U.S. 129) and GA 332 makes a haphazard loop in the area serving primarily local traffic.  Other parts of the state did not fare so well: especially when mileage was capped in 1963.

The Rural Roads Authority, created around 1955, allowed bonds to pay for a secondary state highway system.  It was structured similar to what South Carolina has today where bonds paid for roads to be built to state standards followed by the state taking over the road after it was built.  Ending in less than five years after the ousting of then-governor Marvin Griffin, the state's role in relieving local governments of major local roads was effectively halted.  While Georgia ended up with a proportionally larger state road system than many states, it still left a huge responsibility for these new, state-built paved federal-aid roads on counties unprepared for that responsibility.  In only a few years most major county roads went from dirt trails to high speed roads requiring a level of expertise that left most local agencies completely dependent on state-aid for their maintenance: assistance that was uneven, inadequate and infrequent.  Previously, county maintenance primarily consisted of unpaved roads in rural areas with the only paved roads typically being state highways.

Up until 1963, roads were added to the state highway system at a fevered pitch with completed roads falling apart soon after.  In other words, no real maintenance budget existed to compensate for the fact that new roads both state and county were being paved right and left.  Even counties that did not gain substantial state highway miles usually had at least part of their federal-aid eligible roadways paved to state standards up until the mid-1960's.  The road building slowed dramatically when the legislature mandated a cap in 1963 along with the halt in growth of the state highway system.  At that point, the mileage cap had not been reached, but it would soon be reached by the early 1970's when the last wave of county takeovers took place.

Likewise county road reconstruction dropped considerably from previous years.  This new 18,000 mile cap at the time set the ratio of state control at that point at around 20%.  Since then, that ratio has dropped to 14.3% with that ratio accelerating downward due to the high growth of locally owned roads across the state.  If the state highway system today was still at 20%, the state would have since added 7,000 miles to the state highway system helping to not only accommodate new roads in high growth areas, but also help rural areas to better manage their load.  Instead, the state highway system is very unbalanced with some rural counties having as much as 25% under state control with other rural counties having as little as 10%.  The lowest ratio currently is in Cobb County where less than 5% of the road network is under state control.  In Atlanta's four largest high growth, high population counties, state ratios average 6.4%.  This means that most counties are today heavily dependent on sales and property taxes to make up the difference.  While not an entirely bad idea to use sales taxes for road construction and maintenance, it does not mean it is acceptable to dump an excessive bulk of responsibility on local agencies.

The problem with mileage caps is that rural highways are arbitrarily removed from the state system just to add another road.  The local agencies for the most part lack adequate resources to maintain the roads to the levels of the state.  Had a ratio cap instead been established at 20%, roads like GA 336 in Stephens County would have likely remained on-system along with a few other roads added as well.  


Realistically, having the state fully control a large system of roads with no local financing is a doomed method.  It is not that it does not work, but what was learned over many years is that roadway modernization and road project funding is suppressed when the state government is balancing out primary responsibility with secondary responsibility: especially when politicians are attempting to pass off a tax increase to the local level.  However, the idea that local agencies can fully handle maintenance without sharing at least some responsibility with the state or larger region is a foolish proposition.  For Georgia to have a better highway system that is fair to all local agencies is to create three classes of highways with options available based on a chosen method or population.

A base plan was described on a post on this site's sister blog entitled "A Need to Reclassify Highway Systems Nationwide".  It lays out a core plan to be applied nationwide.  It includes three classes of roadways: state highways, farm-to-market highways and local roads, all which may be administered by an agency larger than a county or city government.  

In Georgia, the three classes should be state primary, farm-to-market and local.  It should be noted that several options will be presented for farm-to-market that do not necessarily involve using GDOT forces.  Additionally "local" does not necessarily mean that a single local agency will actually maintain the roads that are their ultimate responsibility.  The three classifications are described as follows:

State Primary System

The state primary system should consist of roads solely owned by the state government with construction responsibility under full state control and maintenance usually handled by state forces.  In some high population counties, the county government may be contracted to maintain state-owned roads, but only under certain provisions.  State primary routes will also be based not on vague criteria but instead will be laid out strictly based on functional classification.  For a road to be a state primary route in Georgia it will need to be eligible for federal-aid and limited to the following classifications:

  • Principal arterial
  • Rural minor arterial (urban minor arterials excluded as they relate to rural major collectors)
  • A freeway
  • An interstate
  • A U.S. route (may be designated major collector)
  • Select major collectors and urban minor arterials up to the state maximum ratio

The ratio of state control on these routes would be near the national average set at 11%.  The state's total mileage excluding urban minor arterials and major collector routes as of 2014 was 10,883.1 miles (8.7%) meaning that the primary system should be set at an exact ratio of no more than 10.0%.  This means that the ratio of fully state controlled roads would fall from the current 18,000 miles to a range between 12,500 and 13,000 miles.  This would also mean that roadways that are designated as principal arterial, rural minor arterial and/or are freeways currently owned by local agencies would automatically transfer to the state highway system per the new rules as-is regardless of actual roadway conditions.  This will require that adjustments are made for this added mileage meaning that most major collectors would in turn transfer to the state secondary system.  State primary routes should be indicated with the standard Georgia route sign or with a new primary route sign that looks bigger than the current sign (e.g. Texas).  The reason that urban minor arterials are not included in this classification system is that in Georgia they function in relation to rural major collectors making them in actuality a major collector.

Farm-To-Market/State Secondary System

The state secondary system should consist of all important roadways that are not otherwise interstates, U.S. routes, freeways, principal arterials or rural minor arterials.  It will include all remaining federal-aid eligible roads, but may also include minor collectors and functionally local roads that fit a specific criteria.  Roads under this criteria include this full list of classifications:

  • Urban Minor Arterial (Federal-Aid)
  • Rural Major Collector (Federal-Aid)
  • Urban Collector
  • Rural Minor Collector
  • A limited ratio of local connecting roads

Roads such as GA 325 in Union County would be considered farm-to-market.  Major construction needs are minimal usually requiring only resurfacing every 12-15 years, and the road is designated major collector.  Roads like this would transfer from the primary system to the farm-to-market system along with many presently county roads.

In general, the ratio of state secondary roads would be at minimum 12% (only federal-aid eligible) and at maximum 25% (includes the entire list above).  This would come to a total highway system mileage (primary and farm-to-market) of between 22-35%.  However, the definition of "farm-to-market" does not mean that GDOT is responsible for constructing and maintaining those roads.  In fact, many options have been provided to define who maintains secondary state roads and what they are.  In general, farm-to-market roads will receive special funding and/or limited state oversight and will by law not be permitted to be fully maintained by individual counties or cities.  The list of options for state secondary roads include the following:

  1. Regional Road Maintenance
    • In this method, the state creates local collective agencies forming "states within a state" who handle road maintenance on farm-to-market roads (e.g. Atlanta Regional Department of Transportation serving the 28 metro counties and cities within). 
    • Regional agencies must have a minimum population of 300,000 residents and must be formed based on MSA boundaries with at minimum an entire MSA under a single region.  A map of such regions is available showing how these would be organized.  
    • Only four metro areas in Georgia currently meet the minimum threshold: Atlanta, Augusta, Savannah Combined MSA and Macon-Warner Robins Combined MSA (although Chattanooga-Dalton Combined MSA is nearing this threshold) 
    • State governments would need to define all local jurisdictions as part of a non-overlapping region
    • This plan has been discussed in depth on this site's sister blog under the Regional Roads Plan
    • A detailed account of how regional road systems are formed is found on a post detailing such a system in Fulton County
    • The steps to creating such a system were also detailed in depth
  2. Statewide Cooperative Road Maintenance (GDOT-managed)
    • In this method, the state DOT responsibility is limited to only providing routine maintenance on farm-to-market roads with only funding set aside for a specific list of tasks
    • Those routine maintenance tasks are limited to traffic control, traffic engineering and lower cost day-to-day tasks and road repairs but exclude major paving and construction
    • Additional work not included under the state's specified task list or unfunded within the budget must be locally funded but completed using only state forces under state supervision
    • Planning and construction projects remain under local authority with local agencies mostly responsible for funding roadway improvements with a combination of state-aid funding and local funding sources (sales taxes, local option gas taxes)
  3. Separate Statewide Agency (Joint Local Ownership or Separate State Agency)
    • In this method, a special state agency separate from GDOT but under limited GDOT regulatory authority is given a budget and control of routine maintenance of the farm-to-market highway system
    • The agency may be defined by the state legislature as a separate state agency from GDOT with its own unique funding source (not shared with GDOT) who has sole authority for farm-to-market roads (e.g. Georgia Department of Secondary Highways)
    • The separate state agency may also be created as a collective of all local agencies across the state operating completely independent of the state legislature.  It would be controlled as a joint venture between Association of County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association (e.g. Georgia Cooperative Local Highway Commission or Georgia Rural Highway Cooperative)
    • This plan creates a statewide regional roads agency, and this method may be used in conjunction with the regional road approach for metropolitan areas
  4. Consolidated Traffic Control Maintenance
    • In this method, only traffic control and safety improvements are managed by a central statewide agency along roads designated as farm-to-market roads (excludes other local roads).  All other roadway functions remain under local control.
    • This plan still places a significant level of statewide authority over local roads but limits that authority to traffic control and safety improvements.
    • A special funding source would be established statewide to finance this work collectively on behalf of all counties and cities
    • This may be managed by GDOT, a separate statewide agency or by the regional road agencies described above

Basically, the definition of "farm-to-market road" described here in no way means that GDOT is solely reponsible for maintaining a network of lesser funded and important state highways.  That responsibility at least partially remains with local agencies regardless of the chosen plan.  In fact, in three of the four options listed, GDOT has no direct involvement in maintaining those roads.  In general, it should be required that either a separate state agency, regional collective agency or a statewide collective agency is created to supervise maintenance of these roads with the goal of consolidating responsibility while keeping funding separate so that available funding is not commingled with GDOT funds.  The important thing to stress is that even though these roads will be assumed to be "state" roads they will most likely operate separately from GDOT.

Local Roads/Streets

The local system consists of remaining roads not considered primary or secondary.  At 65-78% of the road system, they would constitute the majority of the state's roads.  However, they also would have the lowest functional classification meaning that they do not typically serve a regional purpose.  On these local roads and streets, however, the local agency should be discouraged from directly maintaining these roads unless they meet certain criteria.  In general, a low population local agency would be encouraged or required to contract routine maintenance to a state or regional agency while planning and construction would remain a local matter.  Local roads and streets would be primarily funded with local funding, so sharing of services with a larger regional or statewide agency would be paid out of local funds to the contracted larger agency if used.  No statewide or regional funding would be provided.

In general, local agencies who contract road maintenance should fall under the following criteria:

  1. Counties with less than 50,000 residents (in unincorporated areas) and cities with less than 5,000 residents would be required to contract all road and street maintenance to the agency responsible for secondary state road maintenance. 
  2. Counties with less than 100,000 residents (in unincorporated areas) and cities with less than 10,000 residents would be required to contract all traffic control maintenance to the agency responsible for secondary state road maintenance, but they would not be required to contract road maintenance otherwise.
  3. The agency that counties and cities would contract with includes whoever is responsible for secondary state road maintenance including:
    • A regional road agency (must contract with the regional entity their county or city falls within)
    • Georgia DOT (if GDOT is responsible for routine maintenance of secondary state roads)
    • A statewide secondary highway agency (mandated by the state legislature)
    • A statewide consolidated agency formed as a collective of all counties and cities statewide (or all rural counties/cities statewide) created by the county/city associations
    • A county government agency (if the agency is a city and the county operates its highway system as a regional government)


In Part 2, the reorganization of the highway system numbering is detailed.  Included in this plan will be:

  1. A list of reforms needed to current state route numbering including removing of redundancies and excessive banner route designations.
  2. Rules are created regulating reuse of old route numbers
  3. Farm-To-Market highway system route numbering rules and signage style
  4. Reevaluation and reform to local road numbering

State Route Renumbering and Farm-To-Market Route Designations.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Atlanta's Connection to Paulding County: A Confusing Yet Fixable Conondrum

Of all of the Atlanta suburbs, none are more poorly connected than those in Paulding County.  In the past decade, Paulding County was one of the fastest growing counties despite a total lack of adequate routes designated to reach the county.  With no interstate access and few state highways designated to reach the county directly, it is exacerbating traffic problems unnecessarily.  Overall traffic patterns are irregular, routes do not connect correctly, bottlenecks are leading to regular gridlock, major intersections are choking traffic and traffic is to say the least a mess.

State highway routings through Cobb County are too limited and have caused nothing but confusion and congestion for years.  It is time for a major change.

What has changed, however, is the commitment by Cobb County to build roads that funneled traffic onto major routes has succeeded and has been for the most part completed.  While these roads were planned and constructed by Cobb County and are mostly surface arterials, the time has come for those roads to transfer to state authorities along with some badly needed upgrades and changes beyond what the county can afford.  These routes constructed primarily for the benefit of Paulding County commuters include:

  • Ernest Barrett Parkway
  • East-West Connector
  • Richard Sailors Parkway/Powder Springs Road
  • Windy Hill Road Connector
  • C.H. James Parkway (GA 6)
In addition, a new highway connecting I-75 directly to Paulding County is proposed on the Northwest corner of the county providing access to U.S. 41 and existing Dabbs Bridge Road along present-day Third Army Road.  


What stands out in this attempt primary by Cobb County to fix the road situation is that GDOT has shown absolutely no concern about the extremely outdated highway routings throughout the county.  The last major shift in highway routings came in 1983 with the last new state route (former GA 120 Loop) completed in 1989.  Since then, new construction has been primarily a county affair.  These new roads are not just a local concern.  They were built intentionally to transfer traffic to new routes.  When traffic shifts to new routes, state and in some cases new U.S. routes should follow.  That has not been the case.

Marietta in particular has been trying to get commuter traffic out of the city for the past 25 years.  That cannot be done when the state continues to route highways close in to the city instead of pushing traffic to these newer and better roads.  In addition, Paulding County has not placed the emphasis on improving its own connections requiring a greater state focus on fixing these problems.  Heavy traffic congestion on U.S. 278 and a focus on GA 120 as a principal arterial route to I-75 through Marietta has exacerbated the problem.  Even worse is how GDOT let GA 381 go off-system in the early 1990's when it still functions as a major route between the county seat of Dallas and I-75/Northwest Cobb County.  In effect, signage is very poor, state routings are ineffective and traffic is discouraged from using any route to reach the county.  More needs to be done, but the primary focus needs to be on fixing state highway routings as well as creating one to two new U.S. routes passing through the region to better align traffic patterns.  In addition, both the counties and the state need to focus future funding into creating more interchanges and grade separations to move traffic more quickly through the entire region.  Road widening can only do so much when principal intersections routinely hold up traffic.  


Overall, the list above presents some of the roads that must be transferred to state control as a means of adjusting traffic patterns more evenly across the county.  Unfamiliar motorists and commercial interests are likely to avoid roads they do not know as well or think will slow them down because they are not a major route.  Despite the county's best efforts, in no case are these locally constructed routes signed or marked in a fashion to function as highways.  They lack guide signs, trailblazers and route designations making them no better than any other road.  Google still ignores some of these routes due to their lack of status as an official highway leading people along longer routes unnecessarily.  The changes to each road are listed after the caption:

The map above highlights the proposed series of major route changes in Cobb and Paulding Counties to improve east-west connections.  The map above is one of two options with the description of each change below.  Primarily affected roads include Macland Road, Windy Hill Road, Powder Springs Road, East-West Connector, Barrett Parkway and Dallas Highway.

Barrett Parkway (I-575 to Austell Road/GA 5)

It is fairly obvious to anyone that the route of GA 5 through Marietta no longer has any useful value.  Since GA 5 was moved off of Church and Cherokee Streets in 2007, the highway routing is extremely convoluted making it useless to through traffic.  The intention was clear to remove truck traffic from Marietta, but the route still zig zags through the city with far too many turns to be useful.  Any route through Marietta will not save time, and the only logical routing today is along Fairground Street from U.S. 41 to GA 280.


The removal of GA 5 from Church and Cherokee Streets in 2007 created such a convoluted route that it has rendered the highway useless throughout Cobb County while GA 120 is inadequate as an east-west route.  The problem is that GA 5 already has a by-pass, and the state has so far been unwilling to move GA 5 to that road.

In other words, GA 5 needs a new route and Barrett Parkway is more than adequate.  It is four lanes, direct, a designated principal arterial, built to modern engineering standards and connects both ends of GA 5 far more directly than the current route.  The only problem is that the roadway was built by the county and is "not to state standards".  This last line is irksome, because lately GDOT has been placing impossible thresholds on local governments as to what "state standards" are as a means of making sure they can never add any road to the state system.  That is a ridiculous and insulting argument.  If a road carries state highway traffic and is built to acceptable engineering standards it should be a STATE HIGHWAY.  Period.  

Obviously there is one small situation with the portion of GA 5 between U.S. 41 and I-75 and its bannered GA 5 Spur section.  These two stretches of roadway are too expensive to transfer to local control, but this does not mean that GA 5 should keep a stupid route just to avoid renumbering the road.  GA 401 Spur used as a secret designation is an easy solution to this dilemma or GA 3 Spur as a spur off of U.S. 41.  I-75 Business Spur is also a sensible possibility helping to better define the roadway's connection to Marietta. GA 5 through Marietta could also become a business route as a means of avoiding other changes. Obviously also restoring state control to Canton Road (Old GA 5) is a possibility as well, but not as GA 5.  That is also a separate issue that will be later discussed when the broader state system reform plan is unveiled.  

The new Barrett Parkway route is very straightforward.  Since I-575 is already part of GA 5, the route is set up like this:
  • Route starts at I-575 and extends west/southwest along Barrett Parkway replacing GA 5 Connector with GA 5 to U.S. 41
  • South of U.S. 41, the state takes over control of Barrett Parkway along the entire roadway from U.S. 41 to Powder Springs Road
  • East of Powder Springs Road, the road name changes to East-West Connector but GA 5 continues eastward until the intersection of Austell Road
  • At Austell Road, GA 5 turns right (south) onto Austell Road
  • Austell Road north of East-West Connector is transferred to Cobb County, designated with a new route number (most likely reverting back to GA 340) or established as part of a business route for GA 5 through the city along most of the current route
  • If GA 5 Business is established through Marietta, it should be routed along Fairground Street between South Cobb Drive (GA 280) and U.S. 41 in lieu of its current routing.
East-West Connector/Powder Springs Road

In the plan for Barrett Parkway, a portion of East-West Connector becomes GA 5.  However, all of the East-West Connector is a principal arterial with a parkway-style freeway portion between Hicks and Fontaine Roads.  It is also one of two principal commuter routes into Paulding County.  Obviously in its current state it cannot be assigned as part of another route since it really does not replace other routes.  While U.S. 278 could perceivably be routed this way, this route runs too close to existing U.S. 78/278 (formerly Bankhead Highway) and would require restoring Atlanta Road (Old U.S. 41/Old GA 3) to the state system.  The best solution is to assign a new route number to the road from its intersection with South Cobb Drive/GA 280 to GA 5 and then along Powder Springs Road from Barrett Parkway to U.S. 278 in Powder Springs.  The new route would include an overlap with GA 5 between Powder Springs Road and Austell Road.  Potential numbers are numerous, but to avoid confusion probably a new assignment is best: most likely unused GA 386.

Here is what you don't see on one of Cobb County's most major routes.  The altered image above shows this scene in what is shown on the map above as a proposed overlap of a relocated GA 5 and a new GA 386, but today this county-maintained intersection provides no real indication of the shortest and best way for commuters to reach cities in Cobb and beyond.  The result is under-utilization of portions of this major road while traffic clogs streets through Marietta (Image from Google Street View).

East-West Connector opened along this stretch near Mableton in 1997.  It is today a major commuter route from Atlanta to Paulding County, but it remains a county road.

Windy Hill Road/Macland Road

This road is currently a very unique situation.  Prior to the completion of the Windy Hill/Macland Connector in 2012, no direct route existed from Dallas to Smyrna and by extension I-75.  While Windy Hill Road was a major road, its terminus at Austell Road presented no real alternative to anything but local traffic.  By extension, Macland Road was simply an alternate route for GA 120 from Marietta to Dallas with fewer upgrades.  The connection of these two roads changed everything.  Now that this vital connection was created, a full southern by-pass of Marietta exists directly linking I-75 to Paulding County.  The only problem is that it is not a state route and has not yet been classified a principal arterial.  

Obviously upgrades are needed on this two lane stretch of Macland Road in western Cobb County, but since this road was connected to I-75 it has become likely the most major surface highway in the region.  It deserves an upgrade not just to a four lane but to a new U.S. highway.

Another problem is that poor connectivity still exists in Paulding County.  Instead of directly linking to U.S. 278, drivers must take a jog along GA 120 from U.S. 278 to reach Macland Road/GA 360.  A new route is needed that ties together these two routes allowing the option to take either route with only one turn, and this new route should preferably form an interchange where it meets.  In addition, the rerouting of GA 120 through Marietta has made GA 360 a better option for GA 120 than Whitlock Avenue and Dallas Highway.

Furthermore, U.S. 278 along its current route is effectively useless.  It does not connect to I-20, it mostly follows U.S. 78 and it is neither the shortest nor best route.  Two options are available to fix this problem:
  1. Reroute U.S. 278 onto Macland Road and Windy Hill Road so that it connects to I-75 then route U.S. 278 down I-75 to rejoin the existing U.S. 278 in Atlanta
  2. Reroute U.S. 278 onto I-20 so that it connects to I-20, but designate Macland Road and Windy Hill Road as U.S. 278 Alternate along the same prescribed route above.  U.S. 278 Alternate would cover existing U.S. 278 between I-75/85 in Atlanta and Lithonia where U.S. 278 currently joins I-20.
Realistically, until the Macland connection is fixed, U.S. 278 Alternate is the better option.  In addition, U.S. 278 Alternate makes more sense since the route it would take from I-75 eastward is convoluted anyway.  Its current route is also convoluted, but the relocation makes sense in that it separates it from existing U.S. 78 onto a more useful route.  Either way, U.S. 278 is relocated and Macland/Windy Hill Road takes some form of U.S. 278.  

Also, the relocation of GA 120 effectively eliminates GA 360.  However, the new designation of Windy Hill Road requires a state overlap.  The result is that the new road becomes GA 360 while the original route is re-designated.  At this point, the situation is pretty confusing, so it will be further explained like this:
  • All of existing GA 360 becomes GA 120.  Former GA 120 becomes GA 120 Alt along Dallas Highway and Whitlock Avenue.  
  • The short connection between GA 120 and 120 Alt in Marietta becomes GA 120 Connector (note that GA 5 is moved out of Marietta requiring this change).  It would be mostly signed with trailblazers to either route.
  • Windy Hill Road/Macland Road is designated as a new GA 360 upgrading it from a county road
  • Windy Hill Road/Macland Road becomes either a relocated U.S. 278 or U.S. 278 Alternate
  • If Windy Hill Road/Macland Road becomes U.S. 278 Alternate, then U.S. 278 is relocated to I-20 between the Thornton Road/GA 6 interchange and Covington.
C.H. James Parkway/Thornton Road

If the above route changes take place, U.S. 278 is either removed from C.H. James Parkway entirely or is relocated onto Thornton Road to reach I-20.  If it is relocated in that direction, then U.S. 278 and I-20 share a route throughout Atlanta.  Thornton and C.H. James Parkway will not, however, lose their GA 6 designation.

Whitlock Avenue/Dallas Highway/Marietta Highway

If GA 120 is relocated onto Macland Road, GA 120 would have to change designations.  Initially, this could be an extension of GA 120 Alt.  However, if Whitlock Avenue is removed from the state system east of Barrett Parkway, a new route designation will be required west of that.  The recommended designation is GA 258 since the number is available, is not confused with other numbers in the area and was long ago replaced with another route designation on its original routing.  

Third Army Road/Dabbs Bridge Road

It is not enough just to link Dabbs Bridge Road to I-75 and still assume Dabbs Bridge Road is an unimportant county road.  Dabbs Bridge Road will in fact become a major highway when the new connection is built.  Funding will need to be established to rebuild and in some cases relocate this road from U.S. 41 to GA 61, and a new state or numbered county highway route should be established along this road and Braswell Mountain Road to the west.  The creation of this route as a new highway will provide an alternate route for commuters into western Paulding and Rockmart beyond to relieve traffic on other routes into the county including U.S. 278 and Windy Hill Road.  Note that numbered county roads will be discussed in depth at a future time.

U.S. 327: Separate Proposal Included for Future Reference

The maps show a route labeled "U.S. 327" running along part of existing GA 120 and Barrett Parkway.  While not important to this specific plan, the roadway is an idea for a new U.S. highway linking Carrollton to Murphy, NC.  It is designed to alleviate confusion replacing many major routes in the area with a single designation while placing a badly needed U.S. designation along GA 5/515 north of Marietta.

This route is slightly different from the map proposed above.  In this plan, U.S. 278 is completely rerouted to Macland Road/Windy Hill Road, Dallas Highway/Whitlock Avenue east of Barrett Parkway is transferred to local control and Dallas Highway west of Barrett Parkway is assigned a new state highway designation.  The core plan mostly remains in place, but this plan allows Marietta the option to forever cancel any programmed improvements to Whitlock Avenue.  U.S. 327 is also shown on both maps as an eventual two-state U.S. highway providing in part a more unified route across the northwestern suburbs.


The plans presented here relocate roadways to better routes coupled with the ability to create better funding for these roads.  However, long-term road improvements will be necessary to make these routes function properly as highways.  The upgrades and intersection improvements are as follows:
  1. New roadway linking U.S. 278 at GA 6 Business in Hiram to present GA 360/Macland Road west of GA 92
    • Project is shown on the provided maps and includes a short four lane roadway with a major interchange where the new routes of GA 120/U.S. 278 Alt, GA 6 Business and U.S. 278 meet
  2. Widening of Macland Road (GA 360/proposed U.S. 278 Alt) from the new roadway connection to Lost Mountain Road (Old GA 176).  
    • This roadway project is already planned, but this change cuts off widening west of the new connector roadway
  3. Interchanges on Macland Road/Windy Hill Road to remove at-grade major intersections.  Macland/Windy Hill will be the primary movement in all cases.
    • Interchange at U.S. 41 (already long-range planned)
    • Interchange at Atlanta Road
    • Interchange at South Cobb Drive/GA 280
    • Interchange at Powder Springs Road
    • Interchange at Lost Mountain Road/New Macland Road/Old GA 176
    • Interchange at Barrett Parkway
  4. Interchanges on Barrett Parkway to remove at-grade major intersections.  Barrett Parkway will be the primary movement in all cases.
    • Interchange at U.S. 41
    • Interchange at Burnt Hickory Road
    • Interchange at Dallas Highway/GA 120 (will be difficult due to development/lack of space)
    • Interchange at Macland Road (same as above)
    • Interchange at Powder Springs Road (lowest priority)
    • Interchange at Austell Road/GA 5
    • Interchange at Floyd Road
    • Grade separation at Hicks Road
  5. GA 6 Interchanges (includes C.H. James Parkway and U.S. 278 in Paulding County)
    • Interchange at Richard Sailors Parkway
    • Interchanges in Hiram at Bill Carruth Parkway and GA 92
    • Interchange with proposed Macland Road Connector
    • Interchange with GA 61
The list above is not a list to be taken lightly, but is necessary as part of adding these routes as major highways.  The sheer cost of constructing 18 new interchanges in a highly urbanized area is staggering, and it is unfortunate that these were not built into the initial design to reduce future costs.  While the both the state and county have invested heavily in these roads, the fact remains that they were not designed to carry the high traffic volumes they carry and will need additional access control to manage high traffic volumes.  Part of the purpose of adjusting these routes is to provide a means to move traffic quickly through Cobb County away from congested downtown areas.  


The short term solution proposed here is a massive rerouting of highways through Cobb County to better manage the massive traffic heading from Atlanta into Paulding County.  This will mean that some roads will need to be transferred to the local level to make this possible.  This includes almost all non-overlapped portions of GA 5 between U.S. 41 in Marietta and East-West Connector.  The purpose is to route all highways through and around Marietta onto better routes and add major routes to the system regardless of which agency constructed the roadway.  While this will not eliminate traffic, it will alter traffic patterns so as to reduce confusion and take traffic out of Marietta that is generally not local in nature.  

The long term strategy is that by adding these routes to the state highway system that statewide funding can be focused on improving these roads to adequate levels.  Local funding is simply not available to improve these major corridors to the levels of service needed to handle increasing congestion, so state and federal funding will be necessary to begin to eliminate traffic choke points.  In turn, Marietta can be relieved of disturbing/threatening its historic areas by taking major traffic off of the majority of its streets moving it to roads better suited to handle that traffic.  

U.S. 72 Extension and Relocation into Georgia

Many have expressed for years the total lack of an adequate route connecting Atlanta and Huntsville.  While the construction of such a route is decades away, the bigger problem is that no clear route exists connecting the two cities.  However, Google Maps has laid that out for us, and this route is not lost on the truckers that already use it.  While currently inadequate for major traffic, it is still built to adequate standards to become a U.S. route: a plan that hopefully will also emphasize the need to invest more in the upgrades of this route as well as improving the horrible east-west connectivity across North Georgia.

U.S. 72 at present goes through Stevenson, AL connecting Chattanooga to Huntsville, but the real need present is to connect Huntsville to Atlanta.  A simple fix to this portion of U.S. 72, including the portion through Stevenson, can allow U.S. 72 to be relocated to a much longer route of much greater need through large portions of Georgia and South Carolina than the present route in use today.

The U.S. 72 extension is a practical plan that would be handled in three phases.  The first relocates U.S. 72 in Northeast Alabama along several routes from Scottsboro to Adairsville in Georgia.  Existing U.S. 72 north of Scottsboro would then become an extension of another U.S. route that currently ends in a very random place: U.S. 74.  The new U.S. 72 routing would follow the following routes:


This route would follow the following state routes:
  • AL 35 from existing U.S. 72 in Scottsboro to AL 40
  • AL 40 from AL 35 to AL 117
  • AL 117 from AL 40 to the Georgia State Line
  • GA 48 from the Alabama State Line to U.S. 27 in Summerville
  • Overlap with U.S. 27 from Summerville to GA 140 in Armuchee
  • GA 140 from U.S. 27 in Armuchee to I-75 in Adairsville

Looking at Adairsville to Huntsville (I-75 to Huntsville), the proposed U.S. 72 route is chosen by Google despite curves, hills and slower speeds than the alternative through Chattanooga (Image from Google Maps).

However, what is MORE striking is that when the route is extended to Atlanta, this route is STILL preferred over all other alternatives.  This means that these lowly state routes are in actuality carrying U.S. highway traffic (Image from Google Maps).


This route would follow the following state routes:
  • I-75 from GA 140 in Adairsville to GA 20 in Cartersville
  • GA 20 from I-75 in Cartersville to GA 369 near Lathemtown
  • All of GA 369 from GA 20 near Lathemtown to I-985 in Gainesville 

The route from Adairsville to Gainesville is clearly defined by Google matching up with typical truck routes of today.  It avoids windy GA 140 east of Adairsville instead following a portion of I-75 to Cartersville then following existing GA 20 and 369 to Gainesville (Image from Google Maps).


While less important than the two western legs, the need for the route extension further east is still viable.  It presents a badly needed east-west link for traffic as an alternative to traveling through Athens and as a means for bringing economic opportunity to parts of Northeast Georgia overlooked due to the lack of decent east-west routes.  The eastern phase also presents a unique and coincidental situation.  By sheer coincidence, GA 72 east of Athens is not only a major route but maintains its designation into South Carolina until its terminus in the southern suburbs of Charlotte.  U.S. 72 would ultimately assume this route replacing most of GA/SC 72 from Elberton eastward.

The route east of Gainesville is not so clearly defined, and part of this is due to a vital missing link east of Gainesville.  The connection and realignment of two county routes in Hall County would most likely correct this issue, but this does not necessarily mean that this correction is the most viable route.  Google analysis shows that three possible options are viable.  These options are:

  1. Route U.S. 72 along existing U.S. 129 to Athens then along all of GA 72 east of Athens meaning a full U.S. 72/GA 72 overlap.
  2. Route U.S. 72 along GA 98 from Maysville to Comer then along GA 72 east of Comer
  3. Route U.S. 72 along parts of GA 51 and 17 from Gainesville to Elberton in conjunction with other shorter routes.

Option 1:

The first option utilizes only existing state routes.  It follows:

  • U.S. 129 from GA 369 in Gainesville to GA 10 Loop in Athens
  • GA 10 Loop from U.S. 129 to U.S. 29
  • U.S. 29 from GA 10 Loop to GA 72
  • All of GA 72 east of U.S. 29 creating the coincidental U.S. 72/GA 72 overlap
This route is obviously the most simple to execute, but it has a distinct disadvantage in that it does not allow traffic to avoid Athens.  This means that U.S. 72 traffic would be forced into congestion related to Athens instead of by-passing it along less traveled routes through smaller cities and towns.  It is the least preferred option for that reason, but it does effectively establish all of GA 72 as a U.S. route as well as linking existing GA 72 to other routes.  In this plan, GA 316 should become the state overlap of all of U.S. 72 to avoid confusion and because the route would still be "Highway 72".

Option 2:

This option is probably the most logical route giving a completely direct east-west link with the fewest turns.  However, it does require substantial upgrades and intersection realignments where it passes through Hall County.  It also will require a renumbering of the westernmost portion of GA 72 between Athens and Comer.  It follows:
  • Old Cornelia Highway from I-985 to Joe Chandler Road (part of Old U.S. 23)
  • Joe Chandler Road from Old Cornelia Highway to GA 52 
  • GA 52 from Joe Chandler Road to GA 98 in Maysville
  • GA 98 from GA 52 in Maysville to GA 72 in Comer
  • GA 72 from GA 98/22 in Comer to South Carolina State Line

The GA 98 routing gives the most direct east-west route from Gainesville to Elberton helping drivers find a suitable alternate to driving through more congested Athens.  It also helps better locate larger cities such as Commerce and the small Madison County seat of Danielsville.  However, it faces limitations from the need for costly upgrades along the portion between Gainesville and Gillsville since the route follows existing county roads (Image from Google Maps).

Note that this route cannot be added as-is.  Several significant changes would have to be made to make it work.  First would be major upgrades to Joe Chandler Road.  This would include intersection realignments at GA 52 and Old U.S. 23 to make Joe Chandler Road the primary movement, lane widening on Joe Chandler Road, an intersection improvement with East Hall Road and completion of an already programmed bridge replacement.  In addition, both county sections would also become an extension/relocation of GA 98.  Also, two routes would have to be renumbered to make this work.  The first is existing GA 98 north of GA 52, which is recommended for a reassigned GA 207 (out of use for 30 years).  The second is the renumbering of existing GA 72 west of where U.S. 72 joins the route in Comer.  The route can no longer carry the GA 72 number under this plan due to excess confusion.  However, several good candidates are available.  These include:
  • GA 316 eastward extension along part of GA 10 Loop and all of GA 72 including the portions overlap with U.S. 72
  • Re-designation of GA 350 along all of GA 72 including the portions overlapped with U.S. 72
  • Extension and relocation of GA 53 along GA 316 and part of GA 10 Loop to overlap all of GA 72 including the portions overlapped with U.S. 72.  Existing GA 53 south of GA 316 could be renumbered or transferred to local maintenance.
Option 3:

This option is the northernmost option and would offer likely the greatest benefit as an east-west alternate route.  However, the existing roadways were not designed to carry an east-west route and would thus require substantial reconfiguration to make work.  Most of this would be west of I-85.  This route includes:
  • Old Cornelia Highway from I-985 to Joe Chandler Road (part of Old U.S. 23)
  • Joe Chandler Road from Old Cornelia Highway to GA 52
  • GA 52 from Joe Chandler Road to GA 323 in Gillsville
  • GA 323 from GA 52 in Gillsville to GA 51
  • GA 51 from GA 323 to GA 145 in Franklin Springs
  • GA 145 from GA 51 to US 29/GA 8 in Franklin Springs
  • Overlap with US 29/GA 8 from GA 145 to GA 17 in Royston
  • GA 17 from US 29 to GA 72 in Elberton

The GA 51 routing is considered because at present it recommends routing traffic along a long overlap with I-85.  While this is an acceptable option, it provides no benefit for communities near the route and dumps addition traffic onto I-85 that is already congested.  However, the route shown here does not consider using county road such as Joe Chandler Road.  The map below shows the same route with the modifications including distance and time to show the advantage especially after upgrades are made (Image from Google Maps).

The second map shows the GA 51 routing removing the barriers presented with routing traffic along an existing county road.  However, the upgrades required west of I-85 are significant and costly compared to the second option that includes only upgrades to Joe Chandler Road (Image from Google Maps).

In addition to the corrections along Joe Chandler Road, significant intersection realignments would be necessary to make this new routing work effectively, handle truck traffic and save time in comparison with other routes.  These upgrades would include:
  • Reconfiguration of intersection at GA 52 and GA 323 in Gillsville to make GA 323 the primary movement and/or construct a traffic circle.  If a higher speed option is chosen, this would require a short by-pass on the NW corner of the two routes.
  • Reconfiguration of the intersection of GA 51 and GA 323 creating a new roadway on the SE corner of the intersection between the two routes.  The new roadway would close the existing GA 323 east of that point and would make GA 323 the primary movement requiring GA 51 traffic to turn off of the new road
  • Realignment of GA 51 intersection at Historic Homer Highway (Old U.S. 441) in Homer to make GA 51 the primary movement
  • Construction of a traffic circle at the junction of GA 51 and 145 in Franklin Springs
  • An improved roadway connection in Royston possibly including the state takeover of Cook Street or a new southwest bypass
  • The construction of a full diamond interchange at GA 17 and 72 in Elberton

From Elberton, the route would continue along GA 72 eastward to the South Carolina line.  In South Carolina, the following takes place
  • Route in South Carolina follows all of existing SC 72 until SC 121 in Rock Hill
  • From there, U.S. 72 overlays existing SC 121 from existing SC 72 to its eastern terminus at U.S. 21
  • An eventual eastern extension may one day be possible to end at U.S. 74 in Monroe, NC via a new roadway connecting NC 75 to SC 122

Northern Georgia has been known for many years to have poor east-west connectivity and part of that is due to the lack of a single major route to prioritize upgrades along.  Travelers from Alabama to South Carolina north of Atlanta at present have not a single U.S. route other than mountainous U.S. 76 and rely on a confusing splicing of state routes.  This state routes have not been unified in any logical fashion, do not indicate badly needed turns, have not been upgraded in such a fashion to better manage long distance travel and receive weak funding priority due to their lowered status as regional state routes instead of major intrastate routes.  Georgia has also not added a single mainline U.S. route in over 50 years relying instead on state route "corridors" such as the 500 series GRIP corridors that do nothing but contribute to public confusion.  Fewer designations are needed, and major routes in the state should be part of the U.S. route system in the majority of cases with the GRIP designations dropped due to their needless overlaps of already present routes.  

In fact, the politics of GRIP corridors do not actually line up with route importance in this case.  While the Scottsboro to Adairsville route has the highest need, it has received low priority for improvements by both Alabama and Georgia who both effectively treat it as a regular surface state route.  For instance, GA 48 is shown as a minor arterial instead of major arterial and has received very low priority for upgrades.  In contrast, GA 72 from Athens to the South Carolina line is not only a GRIP corridor but shown as a major arterial.  Some portions are only classified major collector such as GA 369 in Forsyth and Cherokee Counties.  All portions of this route should be reclassified as major arterial along with a renumbering to U.S. 72.


Most of U.S. 72 north of Scottsboro does not follow a logical east-west direction before becoming essentially an unnecessary overlap with U.S. 41 and U.S. 64 in Jasper east of I-24.  In Chattanooga, U.S. 72 unceremoniously enters city streets terminating at the exact western terminus of U.S. 76: two east-west U.S. routes ending into each other!  It's a logical fallacy that came as a result of extending routes without thought as to where they would terminate.  U.S. 76 itself is mostly overlapped with U.S. 41 west of Dalton making it extend miles beyond its logical western terminus, so U.S. 74 makes the most sense to replace it.  U.S. 74 at present ends at the junction of I-75 and I-24, but it is not signed past its interchange with I-75 near Cleveland.  By signing U.S. 74 and extending it westward along I-24, U.S. 74 can easily and cheaply replace U.S. 72 between I-24 in Jasper and AL 35 (proposed U.S. 72 relocation) in Scottsboro.  Better yet, extending U.S. 74 effectively ties two APD corridors together: Corridor K and Corridor V.  In no way is the importance of Corridor V diminished, and in fact U.S. 74 becomes effectively a longer route tying Huntsville to Cleveland, TN through Chattanooga.  This extension effectively eliminates at least two logical fallacies leaving only U.S. 76 to correct (which will likely come later since a new route is planned from Dalton to Trenton that could carry U.S. 76 on a better route).  It also better unites two corridors that function much like surface interstate highways.

Corridor K and Corridor V can be linked together in a logical fashion by simply extending U.S. 74 westward along I-24 to take over U.S. 72 up to the relocated portion in Scottsboro (Image from Google Maps).


Moving U.S. 72 onto these major routes through Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina will only consolidate what people have already known for years, but the purpose will be better travel and hopefully greater emphasis on upgrading this very substantial yet substandard route.  Most sections of this route are long overdue for a major overhaul including four laning, interchanges, new by-pass sections and intersection relocations to better reflect traffic patterns.  Unclear routes also discourage economic activity in all of the cities along this route due to difficulties involved in shipping and commerce.  At this point, the plan is simply to add a number to existing roads, but the hope is that in the future it will improve the economies and connectivity of all cities along its route.