City installs 'Savannah Bridge' signs that lead to Talmadge Bridge despite no official name change
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - There are new signs in downtown Savannah leading drivers to the Talmadge Bridge, but the signs say the "Savannah Bridge."
This comes after multiple failed requests by the city of Savannah to the governor and Georgia General Assembly, asking them to officially change the name. So far, WTOC knows of three locations where the city has posted the signs. Two are on the intersection of Fahm Street and West Oglethorpe Avenue, and the third one is at the corner of Montgomery and West Oglethorpe.
The bridge is named after former Georgia Gov. Eugene Talmadge, who promoted segregation between whites and blacks in the Georgia university system.
There are still signs around for the Talmadge Bridge because that's still its official name, but the city placed these signs on city right of way property because they are determined for people to start referring to this bridge as the Savannah Bridge.
Whether they're traveling from Georgia or South Carolina, drivers continue to be greeted with signs that read the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge, but, if they're in the in the city of Savannah and looking for the Talmadge, they'll need to follow the new signs.
"We're excited about the sign, I hope everyone else is," Mayor Eddie Deloach said.
Last fall, the mayor and city council members sent a resolution to Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assembly asking them to rename the bridge amid controversy over the Talmadge name. That request went nowhere during the 2018 legislative session along with a different resolution that died, proposing to renaming it the "Low" Bridge after Girl Scout founder, Juliette Gordon Low.
Rawlins: "How do y'all rename the bridge on your own without going through the General Assembly?"
DeLoach: "Well, you know, we voted on it earlier on and it was unanimous with what we needed to name it: the Savannah Bridge. Get used to it. Maybe the state will get used to it and they'll let it ride and let us go ahead and let us rename this bridge the Savannah Bridge."
State Sen. Ben Watson had no idea about the signs until we told him.
Rawlins: "Ultimately, it's up to the General Assembly to rename the bridge."
Watson: "Right, let it run through the committee process in Atlanta, through the transportation committees. They are ones that name and rename the bridges and roads and so forth."
Rawlins: "So even though there are signs, that's not the official name on the books."
Watson: "I think GDOT has established that the name is the Talmadge Bridge and that's been well established in the past."
Some local residents were also surprised that the city of Savannah had taken on this initiative.
"I would rather it be the Savannah Bridge than the Talmadge Bridge but is that an agenda that our council needs to be working on right now, I'm not sure. I guess that's a question for the people of Savannah," Savannahian Erica Jarman said.
"I think the Savannah Bridge is a nice name but I do believe they should go through the proper legislation and get the name changed correctly," Savannahian Nicole Fyfield said.
We found at least three signs around town and city officials say they've been up for a couple of weeks, but what the mayor couldn't tell us was what it cost.
Rawlins: "This is city money, right."
DeLoach: "I can't even tell you it came out of the city's budget. I know the signs appeared and I was glad to see them and I'm all about it."
Rawlins: "If it is city tax dollars, this is at a time when you all are trying to find money for your budget."
DeLoach: "I don't know where they came from."
We've filed an open records request with the city to find out how much the city spent on these signs. We're still waiting to hear back.
Only the Georgia General assembly to has the power to officially change the name so until then, so signs for the Savannah Bridge will take you over the Talmadge.
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