Major Traffic Engineering Projects Recommended

Plans to ease Chatham County traffic are in the works. If you've driven on Bay Street or DeRenne Avenue during rush hour, you know how bad traffic can get. It's gotten worse each year and is expected to increase by more than 40 percent in the next 15 years.

The city and county want to stop it before it gets any worse. After years of research, a consulting group has come up with some recommendations, and help is on the way in the form of an east-west corridor.

"One approach we thought was feasible, and makes a lot of sense on DeRenne Avenue, is converting it to a parkway-type setting," Jim Anglin, a consulting engineer, told us.

And Billy Hair, chairman of the Chatham County Commission, mentioned putting frontage roads along DeRenne for access to homes and businesses. The cost would be $80 million to $100 million, and then there is the problem of traffic toward the Historic District, a separate issue altogether.

If you think the DeRenne parkway sounds extravagant, how about a tunnel going under Gwinnett Street or a second bridge going over to Hutchinson Island?

"Both of those are very long-term, very expensive projects," noted Hair.

But both recommendations are to help the traffic flow. The tunnel would go under Gwinnett and run from I-16 to the Truman Parkway, so the two would connect. That idea raised some eyebrows.

"It's not cost effective," said Hair, "and it would be terribly disruptive to the neighborhood."

The bridge option would connect the Truman Parkway with a proposed Hutchinson Island bypass and take the traffic across the river. This is the most costly at $300 million to $400 million.

Also proposed was narrowing Bay Street to two lanes.

All of these are just recommendations, and no one expects construction to start for at least three years. City and county officials say there will have to be lots of public input before any decisions will be made. The money will come from state, local and federal funding.

Public hearings on some of these proposals are tonight at the Jewish Educational Alliance on Abercorn Street at 7pm, and tomorrow night at the Savannah Civic Center at 7pm.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro,