Speeders, traffic jams, and a curb that can kill - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Speeders, traffic jams, and a curb that can kill

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - More than likely you or someone you love has traveled on I-516 through Savannah, and for some it was their last trip.

Savannah Chatham Metro Police have said it's even difficult for them to enforce the speed there for their own officers' safety, so they asked the State of Georgia to step in and help.

The State did step in, and even came up with a plan, but they're stuck in neutral right now.T

The stretch of Lynes Parkway from Veterans Parkway to the Liberty Street overpass is a dangerous stretch. The Georgia Dept. of Transportation conducted a safety audit 18 months ago, and yet the only work we've seen done is guardrail repair, and that's just not enough.

When you're getting on or off I-516 near Veterans, the distance is about 990 feet, so at 65-miles-per-hour, you've got 10 seconds to figure out how you fit or don't fit into the flow of traffic.

"Because the roadway curves and it nears an on-ramp, it creates a perfect storm," said SCMPD Traffic Lt. Gregory Mitchell.

And storms don't just roll down one side of the street as we saw back in 2012. Stephen and Camie Joyner were heading West on I-516 when Trevor Cannon was traveling East.

Cannon lost control, hit the curbed median and flew into the Joyners' car. The Joyners were killed, but their then three-year-old daughter survived.

Jill Nagel with the GADOT said they have come up with a plan.

"The safety countermeasures that were identified in the safety audit of May of 2013 will include a concrete barrier wall between Veterans Parkway and Liberty Parkway," she said.

That barrier would have stopped Cannon's car, and possibly even Halie McKirgan's car. She died under similar circumstances six months earlier in the same spot.

So the obvious question is: when is the state going to build that barrier?

"When you're dealing with federal funds, right now our hands are tied," Nagel said with frustration in her voice.

In short: no funds, no fix.

WTOC asked Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson when the U.S. Transportation Secretary was in town last week: How can we get the money for these vital road improvements?

She believes resurrecting an old referendum that failed to pass may be the way to go.

"I attended one of the sessions, and everyone who came to speak at the hearings said 'We want T-Splost again,'" Jackson said.

T-SPLOST is a special purpose local option sales tax just for transportation projects. Jackson said it's critical to get this funding, but the city shouldn't bear the brunt of a highway project when they have to fix city roads as well.

The improvement plan to I-516 costs $8.5 million, which is $8.5 million the state doesn't have yet.

In the meantime, officers beg you to get back to basics behind the wheel.

"I just want to emphasize that leave in ample time so you're not in a rush, so don't take unnessary risks. Just drive defensively, look out for the other person who may not be paying attention," Mitchell said.

The case against Cannon is going to trial soon, and WTOC did get a chance to sit in court and listen to some of the proceedings, and there will be traffic experts for the state and his defense testifying whether Cannon was to blame for the Joyner's deaths or I-516 itself.

GADOT Description:

This project will install safety countermeasures identified in the I-516 Road Safety Audit preformed May 6-7, 2013.

It addresses audit findings 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 & 8. It includes barrier wall in the section from Veterans Parkway to Liberty Parkway along with high friction course, diamond grinding, guardrail replacement and slab replacement.

County: Chatham

DOT Dist.: 5 @ 100%

Congressional Dist.: 1 @ 100%

Project Limits: Abercorn St. (MP 0.00) to Ogeechee Rd. (MP 3.134) along I-516

Length: 3.134 miles

While T-SPLOST is an option, legislation is moving through the capital on fuel tax changes. For more information, visit here.

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