Residents weigh in as Benton Boulevard Expansion Project continues

Benton Blvd expansion project continues

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - One county leader has called the Benton Boulevard Extension Project a game changer.

People living in the Highlands community don’t see it that way.

Last time they met with city leaders, they got to speak with the county. Residents demanded that they hear from the leaders on their county project. Wednesday night, they got the meeting they were looking for. Highlands neighborhoods are quiet right now, but what residents are trying to avoid is an expansion project that would completely change that.

County Commissioner Chester Ellis says this follow-up meeting was critical to have everyone at the table. Despite hearing city residents concerns on this county project, Commissioner Ellis says the Benton Boulevard Expansion is happening and there’s no stopping it.

“Once you tell the state that you are dedicating this money to this project, you have to complete the project. Now, they don’t tell you when you have to complete it but you must complete it. That’s the law," Ellis said.

The extension connects Benton Blvd to Highway 30. County and city leaders say the state and the Georgia Ports came up with the idea more than 20 years ago. They were looking for another option for trucks getting to and leaving the ports. A little more than a year ago, City Council passed an ordinance blocking all 18-wheelers on Benton Boulevard and Highlands Boulevard.

“We have city ordinances that block truck traffic that they are trying to push through with this extension. I feel like it’s a road to nowhere, and I feel like we are wasting our tax dollars," said Highlands resident, Leslie Ann Parkman.

The finished extension will not help out semi tractor trailers, but it could give Effingham residents like Erick Vega, who works at Gulfstream, a quicker commute.

“So my commute is 30 merging in with 21 to 95 and exiting on Jimmy Deloach. We’re looking at with a regular day traffic between 15 and 20 minutes," Vega said.

Vega thinks other Effingham residents are also seeing the positives of this project.

“Probably cut my travel by five six or seven minutes, and definitely alleviate some traffic on 21," he said.

Highland residents who aren’t as excited about it aren’t rolling over.

“The only way we are going to stop this or make any changes that come to this project is by calling our state representatives and just lighting their phones up."

The county has made an offer to the City of Savannah to go ahead and make the rest of Benton Boulevard a four-lane while they are already out doing work on the extension. So far, the city hasn’t responded.

As far as the project, the county engineer says you can expect to see cones out here within 30 days.

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