$300 million expressway plans for Abercorn Extension proposed

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Traffic can be bad on Savannah's southside, especially Abercorn Street. The Metropolitan Planning Organization is working on three potential expressway options to handle increased traffic.

Metropolitan Planning officials say the Truman Parkway, once the final phase is complete, will add 40,000 more vehicles a day to an already congested Abercorn Street and Abercorn Extension.

However, the plans are drawing a little bit of criticism, at least from one resident. She even created a website to protest the plans.

Swarna Krishnamurti calls it the Abercorn Freeway project, and thinks the plans are going to gut businesses.

She says county leaders have not done a good job informing the public and are moving way too fast on the expressway plans.

"There are problems that need to be addressed but I don't think a freeway connecting the Truman Parkway at Holland Drive to Rio Road is the way to go," Krishnamurti told WTOC.

Krishnamurti lives in Georgetown and attended a meeting on Sept. 12 on proposed expressway plans for Abercorn Street.

"You can get from here to there very quickly but there are negatives also," she said.

She took the negatives she sees and put them on a website for everyone to see, www.voiceofsavannah.org.  Three expressway plans, each costing between $200 million and $300 million.

"I don't like public officials saying we are going to thrust this freeway on you whether you like it or not. I want the citizens to say whether they want it or not after they had a chance to weigh the pros and cons," Krishnamurti said.

"We have had eight different meetings. We are in the early stages of planning for this," Tom Thomson, Executive Director of the Coastal Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, told WTOC.

"I'm sorry that person, despite our giving her information, has chosen that path to sensationalize this. It has been a very methodical process," Thomson said.

Thomson says the MPO, the federal agency in charge of transportation, is overseeing the transportation studies and plans for Abercorn Street.

"We have contacted literally hundreds of people and we continue to call," he said.

Thomson told WTOC the expressway plans are in the very early stages. One proposal completely rebuilds Abercorn Street from Holland Drive to Rio Road, and would cost more than $300 million. The Georgia Department of Transportation proposed a similar plan four years ago, but Thomson says the MPO vetoed the plan out of fear of the negative impact on businesses and the amount of land it would take.

Another proposed plan continues the Truman Parkway to Rio Road, without any interchanges, and would be elevated above Abercorn and cost more than $250 million.

The third, and Thomson says most popular so far, is an elevated viaduct where motorists can choose to stay on the main drag of Abercorn, or take the elevated express route. It's price tag is about $212 million. It would also have the least amount of impact on the businesses and would not require any right of way purchases.

To view the full State Road 204 corridor study and options, go to http://corempo.org/Manual/ChapterPage.asp?ModID=77

"If we don't provide a good way for people to get in and out of that area, businesses will move somewhere else," Thomson said.

"I think it will totally change a very vibrant section of Savannah," Krishnamurti told WTOC .

Thomson says the project will take at least six more months of planning, then more public meetings until the design phase begins, which he says could be two or three years from now.

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