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Already busy Highway 17 corridor likely to grow quite a bit over next 20-30 years

JEKYLL ISLAND – Highway 17 may one day be six lanes from Highway 196 in Liberty County north into Richmond Hill. In the next 20 years or so there could also be as many as seven traffic signals spread over the heavily traveled three mile stretch of four-lane road.

By then what the county calls the Highway 17 corridor might include another 5,700 homes and more than 6 million square feet in warehouse space and commercial development. That’s according to presentations Monday by Thomas and Hutton engineers Doyle Kelly and Glenn Durrence during the Bryan County Commission’s planning retreat on Jekyll Island.

Much of what road improvements occur and when will depend on the Georgia Department of Transportation and funding, Durrence said, noting there’s usually a six-year wait between getting a project onto the department’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, list, and getting it funded and started.

Durrence said GDOT is already looking at ways to improve the I-95 interchange at 17, and with Hyundai Mobis setting up shop in Richmond Hill the area is now a higher priority at the state level. And he added that counties who present their own designs can possibly expedite the process.

Officials say the most pressing need on Highway 17 now is a light where it runs past Belfast Keller, and that need is expected to grow as development continues at the Belfast Commerce Park at the new Exit 82 interchange named for former County Commission Chairman Jimmy

Burnsed. Durrence, who spent 30 years as an engineer with GDOT before joining Thomas and Hutton, said the state is “waiting for the numbers to show it meets their guidelines for a signal.” Though the Highway 17 corridor was already growing rapidly prior to the May 2022 announcement Hyundai was setting up shot in North Bryan, the county’s landing of Hyundai plants in both North and South Bryan has led state officials to look more favorably on local projects while also increasing the need for them to be completed fast. But it comes with a price tag.

Durrence said it would cost about $30 million to improve the entire corridor in one project.

He likened it to a double- edged sword.

“The good news is you’re getting Hyundai,” Durrence told commissioners at one point. “The bad news is that you’re getting Hyundai.”

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