PORT WENTWORTH, GA (WTOC) - We're learning the stretch of Highway 21 that was impacted by the C-130 plane crash will be open by July 1.
The Air Force Recovery Team and construction crews are making progress laying new asphalt and getting rid of contaminated dirt. Thousands of drivers use this stretch of road daily. While there is no specific date for the reopening, we're told it will be in the near future.
When the C-130 came down, the debris field covered Highway 21 and nearby railroad tracks. Now, the road looks more like normal construction than a crash site. Larry Duncan works at a nearby Crossgate Auto Sales. The closure makes it look like the car lot is closed.
"We need to speed it up a bit more so that we may get our customers to come back," Duncan said. "Because of the traffic, those customers that we don't have, we'd like to have. Those that we do have, we'd like to keep. The crash has affected our business tremendously as far as equipment and as far as our presence being here and people knowing that we are open for business. There are a few other things, but we're trying to get it worked out."
The crash and road closure have hampered their business for the last four weeks. The cleanup resulting from the tragedy has been no easy task, either. The plane crashed on May 2. The very next day, we learned the identities of the victims. A week and a half later, the city of Port Wentworth honored the victims with a touching tribute. A couple of days later, most of the plane had been removed from Highway 21.
Right now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping with the cleanup, restoration, and construction projects. Crews are digging up the median and roadway to get rid of the thousands of gallons of jet fuel and other contamination from the crash. Duncan is still thankful it wasn't worse than it was.
"As you watch this process, you can't do anything but think of the day that tragedy did happen, but we thank God for the pilot and all he did to keep from having any more casualties," Duncan said.
Initially, first responders warned drivers of the potential detour, saying it could last anywhere from a month to even more. It's been exactly four weeks since the crash. The hope is to have it fixed soon.
They'll start by opening one lane of travel each way before eventually opening the whole road. Once again, that could be as soon as a week from now. but no more than a month.