Gov. Nathan Deal announced Wednesday that Bryan County will receive a $1.5 million grant for the proposed I-95 interchange at Belfast Keller Road.
The money is part of $23.6 million in grants and loans from the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank. Bryan County received the maximum amount allowable under the program.
“This is as close as we’ve ever been to getting this project done,” said County Commissioners Chairman Carter Infinger.
The new interchange has been discussed going as far back as 2008. The county recently agreed to an extension with Terra Pointe, the real estate arm of Rayonier, to secure land needed for the project.
Infinger said bids on the interchange could be sought as soon as this fall.
“We’ve been having monthly meetings with GDOT for the past year just to make sure everything is still on track,” he said.
The project involves the federal and state governments, as well as the county and the city of Richmond Hill. Overall cost is projected between $16 million and $18 million.
“Everyone has skin in the game,” Infinger said. “There is a very long flow chart for this kind of project and we’re getting close to the end of it.”
While the new interchange is expected to alleviate traffic congestion on Highway 144 and other roads such as Timber Trail and Harris Trail, it also could bring with it even more growth. The county’s population is currently at about 40,000 and is expected to hit 60,000 by 2030.
More than 5,000 residential units have been approved along the Belfast Keller Road and Belfast River Road corridor in recent years.
A recent transportation study showed that traffic on Belfast Keller Road is projected to grow from a current 5,000 vehicles per day to 59,000 per day in 2030 if the new interchange is built. Harris Trail will jump from 3,500 vehicles per day to 19,000. Highway 144 is expected to see an increase from the current 26,000 vpd to 51,000.
County officials also say GDOT remains on track to seek bids on widening Highway 144 in March of 2018.