State, local leaders eye solutions for Blue Jay Rd., GA Hwy 17 i - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

State, local leaders eye solutions for Blue Jay Rd., GA Hwy 17 intersection in Effingham Co.

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

Once rural roads now host to heavy traffic continue to be a cause for concern for local and state leaders in Effingham County. 

The Department of Transportation is looking to dramatically change the traffic pattern of one intersection in particular: Blue Jay Road and Georgia Highway 17.

The latest study by traffic engineers recommends putting a roundabout at the notoriously dangerous intersection - a concept that's come up before. Over the last year, Effingham County Sheriff's deputies have responded to at least 34 crashes alone at this spot, the most recent - less than two weeks ago. That doesn't count the crash investigations Georgia State Patrol takes over. 

"Pretty much a daily basis you can hear the sirens going up and down the road between this intersection, Blue Jay and 17, and Sandhill and 80," said Sheila Windham, who lives off GA 17. 

Sheila Windham is a long-time Effingham County resident and lives a short distance from this spot, close enough she says, to hear the crunch of crashing cars. 

"We can tell by the smack and how shrill, or the 'ka-thut' that happens, what type of vehicle and how bad it is," she said. 

"The patience wears thin and people take chances a lot of times they shouldn't," said Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie, Effingham County. 

Sheriff McDuffie pointed to population growth for the growing problems. Census numbers back up the bigger numbers of cars on the county's roads. In just six years, the population county-wide has grown by 6,500 - more than a thousand of that in Rincon alone.

"The population has overgrown our roadways," Sheriff McDuffie said. 

A state representative for the area agrees and wants a solution sooner than later.

"Blue Jay and Georgia 17 is probably the number one hot spot in the county right now," said GA Rep. Bill Hitchens. 

Representative Bill Hitchens and several fellow state leaders are in the process of drafting a letter to Georgia DOT pushing for a speedier solution than a roundabout, which Hitchens believes could take at least 18 months to complete. That timeline doesn't sit well with him.

"I don't think that suits any of us. We're talking about people's lives and well-being, and it's essential that we do something right now before something traumatic happens," Hitchens said. 

A spokeswoman with GDOT says there will be a public feedback session in the near future for the roundabout concept.

Sheriff McDuffie says the four-way stop at Midland and Blue Jay has greatly reduced the number of crashes and fatalities - and pointed to that as a solution to be considered. 

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