InsiderAdvantage: Columbus Native, UGA Student Leads Way on Interstate 14 Proposal

Baker Owens

Thursday, October 13th, 2022

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There is still a lot of work to do on the ground with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) but over the next few years, a new interstate might be coming together in central Georgia. As it stands now, to drive west from Macon, (depending on how far you plan on traveling) your best bet is to drive north to Atlanta and then head west on Interstate 20. Thanks to the efforts from a Columbus native and UGA student, Interstate 14 will change that.  

Frank Lumpkin was a teenager in the Youth Leadership Columbus program when Teresa Tomlinson was mayor. Asked by Tomlinson what was holding Columbus back, Lumpkin said “lack of connectivity.” Tomlinson agreed and told him to keep at it. Lumpkin began researching ways to better connect the community. Some searching landed him on a proposal for I-14. Lumpkin was skeptical he could make much impact on a project the level of an interstate but a mentor encouraged him and he began looking into what he could do.  

Lumpkin helped to found the Youth Infrastructure Coalition and began raising awareness of the project and discussing the issue with lawmakers on the local and state level. They put together a video called My14 and worked with the Georgia General Assembly to pass a bill asking Congress to designate the route and for GDOT to prioritize the project.  

Lumpkin and his fellow volunteers from the coalition then took the issue federal and joined with another advocacy group, the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway coalition. With a boost from his home Columbus Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA 2) as a co-sponsor of a bill designating the highway, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee agreed to passage but only if they received a letter of support from all the state DOTs along the route, as well as the Federal Highways Administration. “The catch was—we only had one week,” said Lumpkin. “We luckily were able to secure all of the letters in the time frame, including a letter from GDOT Commissioner, Russell McMurry. Looking back, this was an amazing feat.”

Next up was the Senate.  

Lumpkin, “After running the idea by all of the offices of the ten Senators along the route, two unlikely alleys emerged: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA). When the two Senators brought forth the I-14 Amendment to the House floor, Senate Environment and Public Works Chair, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) said “anything that Sen. Cruz and Sen. Warnock could agree on should be passed unanimously.” The I-14 Amendment was the last amendment added. When the House and Senate create the larger Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the I-14 language survived. Finally, Interstate 14 received Congressional designation from Texas to Georgia on November 15, 2021, with the presidential signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” 

The literal Act of Congress part is over. Now the project goes back to the states involved for the nitty gritty of highway improvements and local prioritization. The roads in the immediate vicinity of major cities like Columbus or Macon are already close to interstate quality but the roads in between, near much smaller or no cities altogether, need major investment from the state level. This requires increased advocacy from the local level. The Youth Infrastructure Coalition is looking for more partners to help raise awareness and support.  

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