Editor’s note: See more on the new interchange in next week’s Bryan County News.
Even Georgia’s governor can get held up in traffic.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp made a belated stop Wednesday afternoon in Richmond Hill to talk economics and a certain shiny new interchange, during a roundtable with state and local government and business leaders.
Kemp, who was scheduled to arrive at the Bryan County Administration Building about 1:45 p.m. from Savannah, got hung up in traffic on his way to Richmond Hill and didn’t get there until after 2:30 p.m. He apologized. “I’m usually pretty timely,” he said, joking, to state Department of Transportation Board Member Ann Purcell. “With all these great roads and bridges we have, our logistics are not good today Ann.”
He said the heavy traffic leaving Savannah was a good thing, showing that “there’s a lot going on.”
Kemp, who remained masked, also spoke of the pandemic, noting he hoped it would soon be brought under control.
Despite that, the state’s economy and have shown resilience, he added. Kemp called the new interchange on I-95 at Belfast Keller “unbelievable,” and praised partnerships between state and local leaders.
His remarks followed a half hour session on the interchange’s potential impact moderated by state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, and included Purcell, Bryan County Commission Chairman Carter, Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter, Richmond Hill councilmen Robbie Ward and Steve Scholar, Development Authority of Bryan County CEO Anna Chafin, Richmond Hill Bryan County Chamber CEO Kathryn Johnson and Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher and Bryan County Administrator Ben Taylor and Bryan County Sheriff Mark Crowe, as well as others.
Chafin told Kemp the new interchange will be a “game changer,” for Bryan County, which already has industry in the area.
All took the time to thank Kemp and state leaders for their support on the $19 million interchange and for keeping the state open during the pandemic.
Local businessman Gary Stanberry, who owns McDonalds in the area and Macon, said the interchange will allow others to experience the quality of life present in Bryan County.
“I’ve lived in Richmond Hill since we moved here in 1993,” Stanberry said. “A lot of folks don’t get to experience what we get to experience all the time, the beauty of our coast, the beauty of our waterfront … we’ve got so much here to be proud of.”
Stanberry said there are people ready to move here to live and to do do business, and property around the new interchange will make that easier. He also said the area’s growth still surprises him.
“The fact that Richmond Hill Georgia was a AA or a A school, and we’re building a AAAAAAA school, it blows my mind,” he said.
The new interchange has been in the planning stages since 1990, some said.
It was built through partnerships between local and state governments and Rayonier, which owns 5,000 acres around the interchange and through its real estate division has plans to eventually build some 10,000 homes in that area in coming decades, officials have said.
The interchange has been open since Jan.22. It will soon be named after former Bryan County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed.
The bridge will be named the Burnsed-Fowler Bridge after Burnsed and former Richmond Hill Mayor Harold Fowler.