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Frank Lumpkin IV poses for a photo on Baxter Street in Athens, Georgia on Aug. 22, 2018. Lumpkin is proposing to build an interstate through five states from Texas to Georgia. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

University of Georgia sophomore Frank Lumpkin IV was a senior in high school when he first heard of the I-14 initiative. The real estate and finance major from Columbus came across the proposal while writing his senior research paper and has been inspired ever since.

“From that moment I knew this is what Columbus needs. And then I thought, why stop there? This is something that could transform the entire South,” Lumpkin said.

The proposed interstate would run from I-10 in West Texas to I-20 in Augusta and would pass through several major military bases and cities along the way. Lumpkin believes I-14 could serve as a tool to enhance economic development and increase military efficiency.

“Interstate 14 to me is about providing opportunity… through better business. We talk a lot about combating persistent poverty, and it’s not only going to help those who are impoverished, [but] it will [also] help everybody,” Lumpkin said. “It’s going to address the largest issues the South is facing today, such as a lack of connectivity as well as national security issues.”

From there, Lumpkin’s goal was to get the word out about I-14. He is now the founder and president of the Youth Infrastructure Coalition, along with two other board members, Justus Armstrong and Carsen Storey of Auburn University.

“The largest thing holding us back is lack of awareness. People don’t really think of an interstate or infrastructure in general as something that could have positive benefits,” Lumpkin said. “We just want to show people all the positive effects this could have and not just in the immediate area.”

Armstrong, a sophomore political science major, is aware of the struggle to be taken seriously as a youth organization. As the vice president of the coalition, he addressed what he sees as perceived doubts that they will be able to effect real change.

“Many [people] are surprised at our achievements thus far and [our] knowledge of this project. While we may be young, we are the future of our communities and nation,” Armstrong said. “Our generation will bring about change in our current problems and we are here getting a start on that change by proposing solutions to infrastructure issues.”

The Youth Infrastructure Coalition is a nonprofit with representatives from Georgia College & State University, Columbus State University, Morehouse College, Auburn University and UGA.

Storey, a sophomore psychology major and secretary of the coalition, believes the group’s dedication is one of many reasons they’ve already made an impact.

“This project has been one of the hardest that I have ever worked on, but the benefits that I-14 would bring to our region outweigh the hard work that must be done in order to make I-14 a reality,” Storey said. “To me, it is crazy to think that a small group of college students has made the progress that we have made in such a short amount of time.”

According to the coalition, “I-14 would provide an alternative route from I-10 and I-20 reducing congestion in cities along other routes like metro-Atlanta, a dream for the shipping industry, the everyday traveler, and residents of these congested areas.”

Along with reducing Atlanta traffic, Lumpkin brought attention to the fact that the proposed interstate would provide another route for citizens to evacuate hurricanes. He names the coalition’s greatest achievement to date as being its informational “My14” video.

“The video really shows people what this interstate is all about. We spent a lot of time and raised a lot of money to make it happen,” Lumpkin said.

Lumpkin also addressed a common concern for the project: cost.

“A lot of people aren’t interested in spending money on anything, which makes sense. But I-14 is an investment into the future of our country,” Lumpkin said.

Lumpkin is confident the immediate costs will eventually be outweighed by the potential for economic development.

“We’re going to have more people working. We’re going to have more people passing through the region and paying sales tax. In the end, it’s going to pay for itself,” Lumpkin said.

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