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Macon-to-LaGrange Highway Expansion in the Works | News

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Macon-to-LaGrange Highway Expansion in the Works
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Georgia's freight traffic could triple with the proposed expansion of the Savannah port, according to the Three Rivers Regional Commission in Griffin. 

And that means it's time to act, some officials are saying, so the state's infrastructure can get goods where they belong.

Several recent state reports found a need for a multi-lane highway connecting Macon to LaGrange, and they're looking at Hwy 74 as the answer.

The portion of Highway 74 they're considering for the expansion runs from Interstate 475 in Macon along Mercer University Drive through Thomaston, Greenville and on to LaGrange. 

Lanier Boatwright, Executive Director of Three Rivers Regional Commission, says the Kia plant in West Point has generated 10,000 jobs for the area.

He says it's "not just the number of jobs created by Kia, but the suppliers to Kia."

Now he says they're looking at ways to make it more accessible, and attract other types of businesses.

"Georgia just is a transportation and logistics hub," says Robert Heitt, also with the commission. "We're the center for the southeast and we need a good set of east-west connectors."

They're working to get federal funds to study things like the cost of the project and the exact route. That could take 18 to 24 months to complete says Hiett.

He says he hopes they can find the funding fast because the need is great.

"We have to have good transportation corridors to move these folks around efficiently, because if you don't, they'll take their business somewhere else," says Hiett.

For 15 years, Debi Jina's owned a convenience store on Hwy 74 in Upson County.

Although she loves the laid back lifestyle, she says she'd welcome more businesses and traffic in the area.

"There's industry that wants to come, but won't come because there's no major highways," she says.

Jina says if the road her business is on turns in to a major thoroughfare, it could bring more economic life to the area.

"I think it would boost the economy of the whole mid-section of Georgia and west Georgia a great deal," she said.

The six counties along the route, including Monroe and Bibb, have signed on in support of the project.

Boatwright says they've been working on this since about 2006, but so far they have not been abe to get federal funding for the initial study.

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