More than 27,000 vehicles travel the portion of I-16 from Bryan County into Savannah every day. Wednesday morning, after word that five people had died in a two car accident, we heard from a number of drivers, including Carolyn Long. “I refuse to go that way. I used to travel it (I-16) t a lot but due to all the recent activity and accidents I have found an alternate route. I call it the Devil’s Highway,” she told us.
With Wednesday’s accident, the number of fatalities on this stretch of the roadway has gone to 16 within a little over a year. (The most publicized accident being the deaths of five GSU nursing students last year.)
“It’s very upsetting I’ve been calling on the State to make improvements to I-16 and I-95 for several years now and you know, it can’t happen a minute too soon,” said Dean Kicklighter who serves as a Chatham County Commissioner. The stretch of I-16 in question is in his district.
Kicklight says says while speed and distracted driving are certainly issues, so is the roadway itself as well as traffic congestion. The Georgia Department of Transportation is promising improvements at interchanges at Lynes Parkway and i-95 and 16, and planning to make some portions of the roadway six lanes (going east to Savannah.) “, “And they plan to six lane it all the way into Savannah and that’s gonna be nice and I do appreciate that effort, but the State needs to take this area a lot more seriously, they need to go ahead and extend this and go six lanes all the way back until at least the Pembroke area,” said Kicklighter.
He says the State’s plans will certainly make a difference. But what’s plan at this point “does not affect the areas where we’ve experienced the recent tragedies.”
Kicklighter is hoping that ultimately, the six lanes (three in each direction) may go all the way to Pooler Parkway or Bloomingdale (if not Pembroke.) He believes that traffic counts currently could already support that. “Because as we see right now waiting on things to happen is not the way, we need to plan better, the State needs to plan better,” he said.
Kicklighter encourages everyone to attend an informational meeting next week to see what the DOT has planned for I-16 and to offer input. “Because the traffic, especially with the Port project expansion is only going to get worse and the DOT needs to do everything within its power to make the improvements and to make the place as safe as possible,” said Kicklighter. ” One death is too much, much less the rash of horrible deaths we’ve had recently.”
The DOT meeting/open house will be next Tuesday, June 28 in Garden City at the City Hall. People can go from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and view project plans. You can also attend a second session from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. regarding interchange reconstruction and lane improvements. This is not a formal public hearing but people can ask questions and make comments on the project plans.