Dean Forest Rd. bridge closing Wednesday evening for 4 days, impacting local businesses

Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 5:41 AM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The bridge on Dean Forest Road, above Interstate 16, will be closing down for the next four days.

The good news, that closure doesn’t start until Wednesday night. So you still have time to make a plan.

You can get all the way up to the bridge and still have access to the ramps on and off of Interstate 16.

However there will be one ramp closure starting Wednesday night, the Interstate 16 eastbound off ramp to exit on Dean Forest will be closed starting at 7 p.m. and will reopen Thursday at 10 a.m.

All lanes along 1-16 will remain open during the time. The reason for this closure is because they will be doing some massive asphalt and concrete work.

The project is slated to take about four days and the DOT says they plan to open the road Sunday at 7 p.m. And be prepared to go slow because there will be a new traffic pattern once it does re-open.

“Once the shift happens, when things are wrapped up on February 26, leading into that Monday, it will be just like it is now when you come through there you are just going to be traveling on a new bridge. Then contractors will focus on the old bridge where you are used to traveling to get that reconfigured,” said Kyle Collins with Georgia Department of Transportation.

Once they are done it will be two brand new bridges that will be set up in a diverging diamond – the same pattern at the I-95 and highway 21 interchange in Port Wentworth. They hope the design will better handle the high volume of traffic at the Dean Forest Interchange.

This closure is a big step in the project. You can still pass through Wednesday morning, but it will close at 7 p.m. and remain closed until Sunday night.

Impact on local businesses

Even once that is done, construction will continue and it has been a headache for businesses in this stretch.

Ronnie’s Restaurant has been a staple at this exit on I-16 for more than 40 years. But with this massive construction project, the owners say it’s making it difficult for loyal customers to get to them and for new customers to find them.

“Really I’ve been in the restaurant industry my whole life,” said Shawn Apfel , the co-owner of Ronnie’s. Apfel runs the kitchen at Ronnie’s. “I like the ability to make it my own but still keep it memorable,” he said.

That’s why Shawn and his mom Linda bought the restaurant back in 2019. “We survived COVID, we started to make some money and now we have this,” said Linda Moran, the co-owner. She is talking about the construction right outside of their door at the Dean Forest and I-16 Interchange. “We actually did better during COVID than we are doing now,” she said..

They used to sell around 300 burgers a day. Since construction, that’s been cut in half as they closer to 100 or 150 a day. “I’m at a loss…I’m at a loss for words,” Moran said.

Construction outside has been going on for about a year but now, crews will be closing the bridge for about four days. “I’m not expecting a positive week,” Apfel said.

However, they know that their loyal customers continue to show up. “The local warehouses and people that have found us and can get to us and fit us into their schedule are pretty much what is keeping us afloat,” he added.

Keeping a Savannah staple alive, even though there have been more than a few bumps in the road. “We just have to go with the flow, it is out of our hands, so we just have to keep doing what we are doing and keep pressing on,” Moran said.

They are so thankful for the support they have gotten and say they have no plans of going anywhere, but this will be a tough week. They will remain open during construction.