New Islands Expressway bridge opening, lane shift planned for Thursday night

Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 11:37 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Georgia Department of Transportation announced traffic on Islands Expressway at the Wilmington River will shift overnight to the newly constructed bridge starting Thursday, July 7 in Chatham County.

Weather permitting, traffic on the Wilmington River/Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway draw bridge will be shifted to the new high level fixed span bridge beginning at 11:30 p.m. Thursday night continuing until 7 a.m., Friday, July 8.

Message boards will be set up to give drivers advance notice of the upcoming traffic shift.

This new traffic configuration will allow continuous traffic flow, no longer hindered by maritime traffic. The traffic shift is needed for removal of the two existing double bascule bridges and complete bridge two construction, which is expected in second quarter of 2023.

“It’s been a long time coming.”

It’s replacing the draw bridge that officials say slowed down the traffic headed back and forth to the islands. The west bound bridge will be a one lane express way for traveling both ways for now until the east bound bridge is ready in 2024.

Jill Nagel with the Georgia Department of Transportation says it’s best to avoid the expressway while they are switching traffic patterns over night while they change the traffic markings. But if you do use it, there will be help top navigate you.

“When we go to put traffic on the new bridge we will have a pilot car that will lead them, kind of like follow the leader so they’ll know which way to go and everyone will just follow from there on.”

Soil stability issues pushed the construction of the west bound bridge but Nagel says it’s safe now.

“We hit a hiccup we had to change some design on the bridge but that is going to be a bridge that will last for years and years to come.”

While Nagel says the project will improve traffic, Tybee resident of 20 years Michael Nolin isn’t as excited.

“I think they’ll miss the charm of the draw bridge.”

Living in Savannah for two years, Marlene Lemons is excited for the improvements.

“It’s very convenient and I guess I didn’t live here when it was a draw bridge but we come over about twice a week and it’s just really nice and it’s convenient if we’re going out to Tybee or we make a right and go out to Wilmington or whatever.”

Drivers are told to expect delays and use alternate routes, exercise caution, and reduce their speed while traveling through work zones. Before heading out, get real-time information on work status and traffic conditions. Call 511, visit, or download the Georgia 511 app.

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