Bush Puts Highway 411 Connector on Federal Project Fast Track

Wed August 11, 2004 - Southeast Edition

WASHINGTON (AP) A project to connect several northwestern Georgia counties with Interstate 75 has moved to the front of the Bush administration’s priority list for road work, Rep. Phil Gingrey said Aug. 9.

Gingrey, R-Ga., got the word from U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who phoned to tell him the U.S. 411 connector was one of six projects that have been placed on the department’s fast-track list. That means the first step –– an environmental review –– may be only months away when it could have taken years.

“I’ve been driving him nuts,” said Gingrey, a freshman who represents a swath of western Georgia counties. “We’ve really made a pest of ourselves.”

The project would connect I-75 with U.S. 411 at its interchange with U.S. 41 west of Cartersville, avoiding one of the state’s most notorious bottlenecks. It has been near the top of the state’s highway wish list for nearly three decades, and a year ago, Gov. Sonny Perdue formally requested the fast-track designation, citing safety as a primary concern.

“Providing direct access to the interstate will provide a greater level of driver comfort, increasing the safety of the driving public,” Perdue wrote.

Right now, getting from I-75 to Rome –– the largest city in the northwest quadrant of the state –– involves navigating that is indirect, often confusing. The four-lane road would be far more direct and extend about six miles.

More than 50 projects were nominated for fast-track consideration. The 411 connector was the only one from Georgia.

Gingrey has requested $21 million for the actual construction, but that money and others across the nation have been stalled amid congressional negotiations over a new highway bill. Even if Congress doesn’t act on that this year, however, the environmental study will be able to begin.