Albany-- Could an interstate highway be in the works for Albany and other south Georgia towns?
Tuesday, Albany city and business leaders met with State Department of Transportation leaders in Atlanta to discuss plans to extend interstate 185 from Columbus to Monticello, Florida.
The proposed 200-mile extension would follow the path of State Route 520 and U-S 19 through Dawson, Albany, Camilla, and Thomasville. Then connect with I-10 in Jefferson County, Florida.
Years ago, Albany government leaders rejected plans to bring Interstate 75 though the city. In the end, it was Tifton that reaped the benefits of the interstate highway. Albany now wants a piece of Tifton's success.
Located right by I-75, you'll find the Holiday Inn. There, business is always steady.
Krisha Faw,"People like to say we're they're half-way point to Florida. No matter where they come from, whether they're from Michigan or Wisconsin."
Hotel Manager Krisha Faw says having an interstate highway has worked wonders for Tifton, bringing population and business growth.
Krisha Faw,"Having the interstate right here pulls people in and pulls in the business that we need. With the interstate right here, it draws so many people that wouldn't get a chance to know that we're the turf-grass capital of the world."
Clifford Porter, "The sooner you start, the sooner you can get it completed."
Albany Chamber's Director of Governmental Affairs wants Albany to have what Tifton has. He says bringing interstate 1-85 to Albany would breathe life into a city that struggles to grow economically.
Clifford Porter,"It may be one of the most important things that can happen for our area. Industries look for major transportation hubs. There would be more tourists coming in and, clearly, you would have a major increase in traffic counts which would help things like the Riverquarium."
However, bringing an interstate highway through Albany will not be cheap.
Clifford Porter,"It's extremely expensive. We were told today some of the overpasses may run as much as $25 million a piece."
But it's a price many Albany leaders are willing to pay, if it means turning Albany into thriving city that attracts outsiders and businesses to the area.
For Krisha Faw, she believes if an interstate highway can do just that for Tifton, it will do the same for Albany.
Krisha Faw,"Tifton started out small and in the past six years that I've been here we've grown so much, I think it would make Albany at least double its size."
The State Department of Transportation plans to hire a consultant to determine whether there's a need to extend the interstate highway through southwest Georgia.
The evaluation could take six months to a year to complete.
On December 12th, The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce will meet with county and city officials to discuss plans for the interstate highway.