APPLING CO., GA (WTOC) - The drive will begin changing for thousands of people who travel over the Altamaha River between Appling and Toombs counties.
Crews will start on a new bridge for U.S. Highway 1.
People around here will tell you that U.S. Hwy 1 is one of the busiest roads in South Georgia that doesn't have an "I" in front of it, and to keep it that way, they need a new bridge to replace this one.
They kicked off what they expect to be more than three years of construction on Friday. Thousands of drivers use the bridge to come to Plant Hatch for work. Some think the road could get even busier after the deepening of the Savannah Harbor.
“People will begin to need to move stuff north and south, and we hope they'll use Highway 1,” said Toombs County Chairman Blake Tillery. “It's a lot closer than going all the way to I-75.”
More than $5 million of the $25 million cost comes from a regional sales tax for tranposrtation that some parts of Georgia passed, and others didn't.
“The Heart of Georgia passed T-SPLOST, and that will bring more than $125 million in projects to this region,” said GADOT Chairman Don Grantham.
Federal dollars will pay the remainder of the cost. The plan calls for one new bridge, then another next to it to make four lanes. When they have more money.
“We realize it needs to be four lane, but sometimes you have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run,” said Appling County Chairman Lewis Parker.
Parker figures nobody wants to go back to the 1900s ferry boat that charged to cross the river.
“If you walked up, it was six and a half cents,” he said. “If you were on horseback, it was 12 cents. If you had goats, it was two cents per goat.”
If construction stays on track, the new bridge will open in 2018, around the 70th birthday of the current bridge, and people certainly know they've gotten their money's worth from it.