Unknowns surrounding the Bryan County Mega-Site could push back improvements at the crowded I-16 and Highway 280 interchange by at least a year, county commissioners learned during their July meeting.
Thomas & Hutton engineer Doyle Kelley said existing Georgia Department of Transportation plans to put roundabouts at the interchange meant work was expected to get underway at some point in late 2023 or 2024, but, “then comes along the Mega-Site, and when the Mega-Site came along they kind of said we weren’t expecting that from a planning standpoint. And they’ve stepped back a little bit.” Kelley said the problem ies in not knowing how much and what sort of traffic will use the 2,284-acre site, which sits near the interchange, or when the site will have a client.
He said state planners had already started work on the project, long a priority, including environmental assessments, but those will have to be changed. The land in being purchased by the state and will be used as a regional industrial site governed by the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority, and officials have said they intend to attract a single manufacturer to the Mega-Site.
Though improvements to the interchange may be sent back to the GDOT drawing board, commissioners got more concrete updates – albeit without dollar signs attached – on other traffic hotspots along the Highway 280 corridor during Kelley’s presentation. For starters, construction on a proposed roundabout at 280 and Wilma Edward Roads could begin late in 2022, and then take 12 to 18 months to complete.
And, a traffic signal near the interchange at Highway 280 and Oracal Parkway – essentially a four-way intersection with no traffic light or signage – could be on the way as early as 2022, Kelley told commissioners.
A light already in existence at the intersection of Highway 80 and Highway 280 in Blitchton could be replaced by a roundabout with a double left-hand turn, though no time frame was given at Tuesday’s meeting.
Kelly said recent traffic studies show as many as 300 left turns are made an hour at the light during peak traffic hours, much of truck traffic coming up Highway 80 after leaving the ports on Jimmy Deloach Parkway.
The expansion of Jimmy Deloach to I-16, which will create an interchange at Highway 80, is slated to be completed in November, Kelley said.
That could impact traffic on 80 in Bryan County, District 1 Commissioner Noah Covington said, but it’s unclear what the impact will be.
“There’s some necessary truck traffic, but a lot of that truck traffic comes down to this intersection because they’re skipping scales or it’s the most convenient route,” Covington said, noting at one point there was a temporary scale on 80.
The state has been approached about putting a scale back on 80, officials said, which “would help Highway 80 tremendously.”
Kelley also updated commissioners on Pembroke’s request to study the Camellia Drive and Highway 67 intersection – a roundabout is one possibility, he said – and the possibility for a roundabout at Oak Level Road and Highway 144 in South Bryan.
Traffic there has increased since the opening of the Belfast Keller interchange at I-95, District 5 Commissioner Dr. Gene Wallace said.
“You used to be able to pull out there and poke along at 25 mph until you got your speed up,” he said. “Now you have to floor it as soon as you get out there or you’ll get run over.”