Tybee mayor continues to push for Hwy 80 improvements

(Source: WTOC/file)
(Source: WTOC/file)

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Memorial Day weekend was rough for drivers along Highway 80 going on or off Tybee Island.

Two wrecks on the Bull River Bridge stalled traffic for beachgoers and residents. Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman continued to be vocal on the need for improvements as soon as possible.

Mayor Buelterman told WTOC he knows he sounds like a broken record, but until major changes are made to Highway 80, it remains a safety issue. Facebook is one place where Mayor Buelterman made remarks about his frustration.

He explained how the Bull River Bridge and the Lazaretto Creek Bridge are scheduled to be replaced but the process is taking forever. Georgia Department of Transportation is not set to start construction until 2019 and the project will take two years, according to State Representative Jesse Petrea.

"It took me 30 minutes out of my way just stopped in traffic, because I know the easiest ways to get here and I just had to stop. It was a standstill," said Anna Allen.

Anna Allen and Travis Cheek work at the Flying Fish, and this Memorial Day Weekend, they've been watching ambulances fly by along Highway 80. Wrecks followed by the questions of why the roadway isn't getting fixed quicker. The project is funded by federal dollars and with that comes a process of permitting and much more. In the meantime, Mayor Buelterman wants the City of Tybee Police Department to be allowed to patrol along Highway 80 in unincorporated areas of Chatham County, but he's reached a standstill with the county as well.

"We haven't really gotten anywhere with that, unfortunately. I think we are going to keep doing it, and I think things like this illustrate how badly there needs to be some more patrolling out there," he said.

The project set to replace the bridges, add emergency lanes and bike lanes is one the mayor says is good, but he would like to see a four-lane solution.

"It is a safety concern sometimes. I hope everyone stays safe, you know," said Travis Cheek.

Mayor Buelterman told WTOC what he does after seeing the wrecks we continue to cover.

"Email the DOT, the people in charge of the project to hurry things up and I always copy Ben and Jesse and they are always very supportive but at the end of the day, it is very, very difficult to permit that project. It is not so much about money; it is about the permits to deal with waterways and historic landmarks," Mayor Buelterman said.

The mayor is encouraging everyone to reach out to Governor Deal's office to continue to push for the project to be expedited. According to Georgia Department of Transportation's website, there's supposed to be a public hearing open house for the project sometime this summer. There is no word yet on when that will actually happen.

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