Blockade plan underway as new race planned for Hutchinson Island - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Blockade plan underway as new race planned for Hutchinson Island

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Is the Grand Prix of America Boulevard on Hutchinson Island a racetrack or not? The city, Chatham County and the Westin have worked to make the access road safer with temporary, and soon to be permanent, blockades. 

However, in a WTOC investigation, we found plans to put up blockades had been in the works since March after complaints about speeding and the Friday before Ben Tucker was killed, city and county officials met at the exact crash site to discuss the blockades.  

Now, we have learned, while no one will call this a racetrack, a huge race is already planned for October. The news is not sitting well with some.

"Uncomfortable. It's just so sensitive because of the event that happened two weeks ago," Tony Center, Chatham County Commissioner and Tucker's close friend, told WTOC.

Center says he's just finding out information about the race. WTOC found the website advertising the Savannah Speed Classic on Hutchinson Island October 25, 26 and 27. Even the plans about the blockades, Center says, he had no idea.

"I'd like to be more included because I am the 3rd district commissioner and I am learning facts simply through my own investigation, which I wish was more disclosed to me by whomever was involved," Center said.

"Yeah, a solution was being implemented when the accident happened," Bret Bell, Savannah city spokesman, told WTOC.

Bell told WTOC about the current plan for Hutchinson Island, which involves two concrete jersey barriers which would require special equipment to move them for special events, like sanctioned, permitted races. Otherwise, as county officials claim, when there is no event, it's an access road, not a racetrack.

"They are right," Bell said. "If that road is blocked off there is no racetrack out there. If anybody is racing on any public road out there it is illegal."

Until the permanent barriers are up, temporary blockades have been placed in two locations, including where the deadly crash occurred near the Westin Golf Club crossing.

"The proper things happened here. Police raised concerns, got the right parties together, working on a solution and implementing that solution. Unfortunately when the accident happened, it's just the timing was terrible and it's extremely tragic how it all went down," Bell told WTOC.

Center is not sold on moving the barriers and letting racing return so soon.

"I'm not a pollster, but I want to hear what the community has to say. In Paris or Monte Carlo where they block off neighborhood and town streets and have a race, if that is how we are going to handle this, let's make a decision and do it properly," Center said.

Before the crash that killed Ben Tucker, Savannah-Chatham Metro's Downtown precinct says they were getting complaints weekly about speeding on Hutchinson Island, including two accidents, one with an injury and two traffic violations.

The permanent barriers will be in place late summer and after the city and county agree on who will be responsible for removing them for special events.

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