Victims' family pleads for I-16 improvements during GDOT meeting - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Victims' family pleads for I-16 improvements during GDOT meeting

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
(Source: GDOT) (Source: GDOT)
(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

Two public meetings hosted by the Georgia Department of Transportation were held Tuesday to talk about two major projects.

The meetings were held at Garden City Hall. The first pulled in dozens of people eager to learn about the proposed widening of Interstate 16, and proposed improvements to the I-16 and I-95 interchange.

Those who attended were able to get their questions answered as they walk around to each station, manned by project engineers and GDOT officials. At these stations, folks asked about the hurricane evacuation plan during the construction phase, what kind of sound the additional lanes of traffic will create, and even about the possibility of bus and shuttle lanes.

The GDOT staff will now take the feedback they received from the pubic at the meetings, and from future meetings, into consideration as this project moves forward.

The plan right now is to start construction in 2019, and GDOT officials explained that this will be a design/build project.

"The design/build allows the design to continue being finalized as the contractor starts on parts that are already ready, so it's a great way that we can be innovative, and move projects forward a little faster than we can through our regular delivery. And it was identified for this,” said Jill Nagel, GDOT Communications.

According to GDOT, last year saw a 21 percent increase in traffic fatalities from the year before.

A crash history of the I-16 corridor that is the target of the proposed widening, showed project leaders that between 2013 and 2015, there were more than 1,000 crashes. Four of those were fatal. 

And for the past 12 years, the tourism industry in Savannah and Chatham County has lobbied state transportation leaders to get something done to improve mobility and safety for drivers on I-16 and at the I-16, I-95 interchange. 

WTOC caught up with the Tourism Leadership Council's president to see what his thoughts are on this project moving forward, and what one resident thought as well.

"And it's not a problem we are new to or anybody in this community is new to. We are just finally glad that we could get it to happen, and of course the tourism community feels very involved with it,” said Tourism Leadership Council President/CEO Michael Owens.

"All you have to do is look at your newscast everyday when they show the picture from the sky cam, and you can see that it's got to be done,” said R. T. Fuller. 

Tuesday people got the opportunity to weigh in on the major road project, and offer feedback to GDOT on what they believe works and what does not.

One man gave his opinion on the I-16 widening, and the project leader shared some of the feedback he has been getting.

"I'd like to see them cut all the trees back to where the fence used to be, where people wouldn't be getting killed running into the trees along the road. That's the problem with the road,” said Dan Grovenstein.

"Some of the concerns were hearing are about is the noise walls being implemented under this project. We are pretty close to some of the residential areas in the community, so we are looking at that possibility. That is something that everybody wants,” said GDOT Project Manager Andrew Hoenig. 

The family of two people killed in last week’s wreck on I-16 does not understand why it is taking so long to fix the stretch of road. They say it is dangerous and unacceptable that we have had three recent wrecks where five people were killed in each.

Elbert Vincent lost his mother and his brother, Judy Vincent and Ronnie White, on I-16 in the Pooler area. He says it is past time for the issue to be resolved, and they want it done before anyone else dies.

"You say there have been several accidents where five, five, and five, wait a minute, we're up to almost 20 now.. How many more lives? One is too many, I'm sorry, one is just too many, especially when it is a simple fix," Vincent said. "These politicians who control this stuff, if it hit their home, I bet it would move forward a lot faster, and it's a crying shame that we have to go through this delay. I mean, we have known it's a problem, and they have known it's a problem. Why is nobody doing anything about it?"

Signs were posted off the Dean Forest Road exit on I-16, as well as along Dean Forest Road, to let people know where Tuesday’s meeting were taking place. The second meeting lasted until 7 p.m. 

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