For several years now, residents and local government officials have discussed the growing need for interstate access at Belfast Siding Road. The proposed interchange would offer yet one more oasis constructed along the 900-mile stretch of I-95 that would allow both people traveling and truckers hauling goods the opportunity to stop, rest, refuel, eat and possibly spend the night while on their journey north or south on that major east coast corridor. However, the real significance in value lies in what the opening would do for the citizens residing in our area.
The benefits of the interchange are numerous. Convenience is an obvious consideration for the thousands of people living on the south end of the Bryan County peninsula. Much time could be shaved off of their daily commutes if the Belfast Exchange was open. Public safety- In the event of a serious accident, bridge failure, a catastrophe on the railways or an approaching natural disaster, a gridlock in traffic flow would happen. The interchange would provide citizens with an alternate route to and from home.
Growth in our community is inevitable, the beauty and enticing amenities of this area will continue to grab the attention of more and more people. The ability for Richmond Hill to expand and grow can be properly managed if the new access to I-95 becomes available. The existing interchanges at exit 90 (Highway 144) and exit 87 (Highway 17) were designed around already developed areas; commercial and residential developments had to be worked around each other, and any available land near these two junctures has been used up. Future growth in convenient proximity to the interstate will need to be located in the Belfast Siding area and fortunately, this is almost totally undeveloped property at this time. The Bryan County Industrial Authority has long been eyeing this property as a location for new business interests. The economic impact from bringing in new industry to our area can be tremendous. New industry means a larger tax base, which will lessen the dependency on residential property taxes, which has long been the only source of support for services and amenities that our county needed.
The time is NOW. With the undeveloped acreage, no surrounding structures or pre-existing interests to detract and being located close to a major traffic artery, Richmond Hill residents and city and county officials all need to come together and focus on the potential for inevitable expansion and carefully plan for the wisest and best use of this land. It’s a blank slate that represents the best opportunity that our community has ever had to balance our economic growth and work together to better our future. Let’s make it happen!
My business and political experience has taught me that all good things start with a thought, and it’s time we as Bryan County residents start giving this issue and our future the thought it deserves.
Steve Croy, Bryan County Citizen