Highway 17 Widening Project Delayed

Have you driven down Highway 17 in Chatham County lately? If so, you know what a headache it can be. Construction to widen the busy interstate to four lanes began more than four years ago and was suppose to end this fall.

That's not going to be the case. The completion date has changed to summer of next year, making residents very upset.

Imagine having to deal with construction on your way to and from work every single day, for years. "I think it's horrible," Savannahian Linda Franklin said.

In March of 2001, the Georgia Department of Transportation started the Highway 17 widening project, a project motorists agree is very much needed.

"You come here at five in the afternoon, it takes you 30 minutes to an hour to get to one stop to another," said Rebecca Thrasher.

"It makes a two-minute drive a 15-minute drive," was how Franklin put it.

But it's a drive some say can be very dangerous. "The kids walk from school to Wal-Mart to catch the bus, you worry about them," said Thrasher, who has worked at Ashley's gas station on Highway 17 for the past seven years.

She says with Southwest Elementary and Middle School right on the busy highway, she's seen a lot of accidents since construction began. "I've seen a few bad ones over the years."

Ruby Riddey is a school bus driver. She says it takes ages to get her Southwest Elementary students to school. "Especially getting the kids to school in the mornings, you run 20 to 30 minutes from Georgetown to Southwest. It shouldn't take that long."

At three years and counting, construction was supposed to wrap up before the new school year begins. Ruby was excited about that. "I'll have the same route and it's not going to get much better unless they finish this construction."

But now that won't happen until the next fall. The projected date for completion is now the summer of 2006.

Reported by: Hena Daniels, hdaniels@wtoc.com