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An Interstate 14 through the Columbus area? New video shows why you should care

For more than nine months, Frank Lumpkin IV has been promoting the need and benefits of creating an Interstate 14 with a path that also would move traffic through the Columbus-Phenix City area.

The Columbus High graduate and University of Georgia student, who launched a nonprofit organization earlier this year with two Phenix City friends, Justus Armstrong and Carsen Story, now has a polished video to go with the efforts.

Its goal is simple: To draw attention to the proposed Interstate 14 and why it will help reduce poverty, create businesses and improve the lives of residents in communities along its route. The major highway eventually would stretch from west Texas across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and into Georgia, where after leaving Columbus it would flow through Macon, Ga., and on to its terminus in Augusta, Ga.

“I always start out by saying the biggest thing holding this back is lack of awareness. We have to get the word out about this,” Lumpkin said. “The politicians aren’t going to listen unless the constituency base is for this project, and for that to happen, they have to know about it.”

There has been some success there, with Columbus Council having approved a resolution last fall supporting an Interstate 14. Russell County in Alabama also has given its stamp of approval. Lumpkin said he expects Macon to approve a resolution at some point, and he will be speaking to residents of Talbot County next week.

All of the Georgia cities and counties that Lumpkin’s Youth Infrastructure Coalition is focusing on most intently are those along what is known as the Fall Line Freeway, which runs from Columbus through the Macon area and northeast Augusta.

“We’re working on getting some very minor legislation passed in local communities,” Lumpkin said. “This isn’t going to be something that Congress just says we want to do. They’re going to want approval from their constituents, and the local municipalities. What we’re doing currently is going from local community to local community to local community that’s on the I-14 route, and we’re requesting that they pass resolutions advocating for Interstate 14.”

The new video, called “My14” and produced by Columbus-based Naartjie Multimedia, lays out a logical, methodical case for why a new east-west interstate located between the existing east-west Interstates 20 and 10 is necessary to improve areas that have been economically depressed for decades.

“Whether you are young or old, if you live within 100 miles of the proposed route, completing or abandoning this project will impact your future. This highway is crucial and your support can guarantee its completion,” a narrator tells viewers.

The promotional video notes that a federal study was commissioned in 2010 to explore alternative routes from Natchez, Miss., to Augusta, Ga., with the report presented to Congress.

It also said much of the infrastructure work already has been accomplished in the form of limited-access highways such as J.R. Allen Parkway in Columbus that could be converted to interstate standards with “minor modifications.”

“So we’re not so much building a new highway as we’re taking what’s already there, upgrading it, and connecting it to other roads,” the video explains. “There will be little disruption in existing communities and minimal imminent domain land acquisition costs.”

Lumpkin said he isn’t sure what route the proposed I-14 could take after it leaves Montgomery, Ala., then hitches a ride on Interstate 85 north until moving eastward toward Columbus. It could be either U.S. Highway 80 near Tuskegee or U.S. Highway 280 in Opelika, both eventually funneling traffic through congested areas as they approach Phenix City.

On the topic of reducing poverty, the My14 video flashes a sign that proclaims: “The gateway to economic prosperity is lined with concrete and asphalt.” The highway’s proposed route moves through areas where median household incomes are significantly lower than the nation’s average, it says.

“Economic prosperity comes from trade, and Interstate 14 is about connecting places,” the narrator says in the video. “It will connect forts, it will connect ports, it will connect major cities. It will intersect 12 other interstate highways and a multitude of secondary routes. A robust transportation network that will improve access and destination traffic that will stop as needed for hotels,fast food, gas, etc., as well as local attractions like museums, theaters and historic sites.”

Portions of the video show the whitewater course on the Chattahoochee River in the Columbus-Phenix City downtown area, as well the area around the National Infantry Museum, and aerial shots of Columbus Park Crossing and J.R. Allen Parkway.

“All of these businesses and more will benefit directly from the increased volume of consumers because it’s cheaper to ship products along interstates. Warehousing and manufacturing firms seek locations connected to the grid,” the video says. “This interstate will attract these sorts of businesses to the area surrounding I-14. And businesses already on the route can more easily expand their operations as they reap the benefits of enhanced connectivity.”

Before closing, the clip ticks off even more benefits of an I-14. They include construction jobs along the route for its building and long-term maintenance. Military bases will be better connected to each other and training sites, as well as to ports from where they might deploy, it says. Finally, it notes that a new interstate will take some pressure off of existing corridors, with an implication that cities like Atlanta will be among the benefactors.

“This is the idea that I-14 encompasses,” the video says in closing with quick clips of business people, a farmer, a truck driver, a fireman and families, all holding a mock Interstate 14 sign.

“Tell your friends about it. Tell your local representatives about it. And tell your state and national representatives that you want this road built,” the clip says. “Every place on the I-14 route has nothing to lose, but so much to gain. This will be your interstate. Together, let’s make I-14 a reality. The future of our region depends on it.”