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  Safety Upgrade for Macon, Ga ? 

Is the GDOT plan really SAFE?

On August 30, 2008,  the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce invited Telegraph  readers to make up their own minds about the I-16/I-75 interchange project. This was an admirable goal, but they did not provide sufficient information to permit informed judgments.

Chamber officials cited safety as the number one reason for completing this project. The Telegraph on Sept 17, 2008 also indicated that safety needed to be addressed.  Safety, however, is not the main objective of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). The GDOT website says the primary objective of the project is  “operational efficiency.” Safety is listed fourth as a benefit of the project.  So, is safety really an issue in this project, or is it a red herring intended to distract the public’s attention from the negative consequences of the project. 

The Chamber states that from 2003 through 2006 there were 1770 accidents in the area to be “fixed” by the project. However, the absolute number of accidents is not a reliable indicator of the danger of the road. To understand if a road is truly dangerous, one must consider the accident rate of the road, which is the number of accidents, divided by the traffic volume. This average is like a baseball batting average, i.e. number of hits divided by times at bat.

The Chamber said that the accident rate in the project area is 34% higher than the interstate system as a whole; but this is a totally invalid comparison. The Chamber compared accidents on an urban road segment with a statewide system that has both urban and rural interstate highway. (For baseball fans, this is the equivalent of concluding that Jeff Francona is a good hitter because his anemic batting average is higher than batting average of the Braves pitchers).  The I-16/I-75 project is in an urban area hence the accident rate should have been compared to accident rates on urban interstates. The GDOT web site reports that in 2004 (the latest year available) there were 8,333 accidents on the 720 miles of rural interstates and 38,668 on the 520 miles of urban interstate. GDOT has calculated the accident rates on urban interstates to be 190 accidents per 100 million vehicle miles (MVM) and 82 accidents per MVM on rural interstates. Urban interstates have a rate that is 230% greater than the rural interstates. So is an accident rate that is 34% higher that the system as a whole high or is it really low? I invite you to make up your own mind.

To further assist you in judging how dangerous the I-16/I75 interchange really is, the table below permits you to compare the accidents associated with the interchange with to other local roads.  The table also includes the estimated daily traffic count so that you may evaluate the number of accidents given the traffic volume of a road.  

2001-2006 Bibb County Crash Data

Road Segments Estimated vehicles per day Accidents Injuries Fatalities

Mercer Boulevard 23,000 3480 1719 12
Pio Nono 19,000 2439 1193 5
I-16/I-75 project 92,000 2418 899 9
Eisenhower Parkway 24,000 2389 1193


Highway 247, I-75 to Hawkinsville Rd 38,000 1260 545 12
I-475 46,000 1183 414 12     Source:

Some readers may have noted the low number of injuries in the interchange area. This is because so many of the accidents are rear end accidents, in contrast to head-on crashes or side crashes (T-bones) which occur on the local roads. Highway safety experts say that many rear end accidents result from excessive speed, which  are the result of either improper speed limits for the road or inadequate speed enforcement. The table below provides data on enforcement of speed limits by the Georgia Highway Patrol in Bibb and surrounding counties.

Speeding Citations Issued by Georgia Highway Patrol

County 2002-year 2003-year

Bibb 1685 2042
Houston 2867 3507
Laurens 2820 2574
Monroe 4649 3993
Twiggs 1198 1142 Source; Depart of Public Safety Report DPS 521


Perhaps increasing the enforcement of speed limits in the project area to the level of existing counties could immediately lower the accident rate immediately while saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars that could be spent on other more life threatening projects. 

Finally, several letter writers have asked if there is a good alternative to the project. Yes there is.  Move the I-16/I-75 junction south of Macon. Such a connector road could bring an interstate close to Robins AFB, the industrial park, and the Macon airport. While I have not confirmed this, I’ve been told repeatedly that such a road is in the GDOT long-range plans. Accelerate those plans and lets get it done!





  Roundabouts are the "Safest in the World" optional type of intersection.  They are less expensive to build and to maintain than signalized intersetions.  They calm traffic.  It is impossible to run a Red-Light at a Roundbaout. They prevent T-Bone and Left-Turn collisions.  Federal Grant$ are available to retrofit existing dangerous signalized intersections.  Pedestrians are safer at Roundabouts.  

Federal Highways - Roundabouts (click) simple but old overview.  (big book) Informational Guide.

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