CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Tybee Island is home to only 3,500 residents but the island welcomes more than one million visitors a year.
Highway 80 is the only way on and off. This five-mile stretch includes the Bull River and the Lazaretto Creek bridges. During the busy season, these very narrow bridges max out their capacity – becoming a recipe for disaster.
In the last five years, there have been more than 50 wrecks on just the two bridges alone. Eighty-seven percent of those occurred during the daytime on either a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Whether it was a major or minor crash, the bridges and U.S. Highway 80 are almost always shut down because there are no emergency lanes to open up to traffic. So, no one can get on or off Tybee – which means other emergencies on the island will have to wait because even police and EMS can't get through.
Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman has repeatedly pushed for Hwy 80 improvements. So much so, he told WTOC that he sounds like a broken record.
Mayor Buelterman has encouraged frustrated residents and visitors to contact Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's office and tell him how badly they think improvements are needed.
He has gone as far as to send a personal letter in the mail to Gov. Deal. In the letter, Mayor Buelterman told the governor how a need to fast track the improvements to Highway 80 is a public safety issue. He went on to say we need to think outside of the box and set aside normal protocol before more people are injured or lose their lives.
The Georgia Department of Transportation is slated to widen and replace those bridges in 2026. But why will it take that long? We'll explain on The News at 6 on Thursday, Nov. 2.