(SAVANNAH) If you drive downtown regularly, the City of Savannah wants to hear from you. Some temporary changes are coming to Bay Street that will include cutting off truck traffic at night and taking away more than a hundred parking spaces. Brett Bell, a spokesman for the city says safety and traffic flow, both vehicular and pedestrian, are at the heart of the temporary changes coming next month. “We have a lot of pedestrian activity, we have a lot of trucks in very close proximity to those pedestrians and that causes conflict.” said Bell.
To resolve some of the conflict, Bell says the city will try to find harmony by adding temporary bollards to discourage jaywalking. The pilot program will also strip 116 parking spaces away from Bay Street to widen the traffic lanes. One of the biggest changes puts the brakes on trucking through Bay Street, roughly sundown to sunup. Bell says the post-program input on the trucking prohibition will be vital. ” We’re going to, um, engage the businesses where these trucks are heading to, to see what the impacts of a ban on that time travel will be. We’re doing it at night because nighttime truck traffic is just a fraction of daytime truck traffic, so the impact won’t be as great.” Bell said. He says on average, more than 360 trucks use Bay Street every night. During the day the number more than quadruples to 1,779 big rigs travel between East Broad and MLK Blvd
Members of Savannah’s Downtown Business Association is eager to get some more input from the city regarding the proposed changes. President Karen Guinn says they are hoping for a strong turnout for the drop-in sessions for the public at the Civic Center on Wednesday. “We have a lot of unanswered questions at this point, so you know, the downtown business association is encouraging people to get out to the public information session to hear what the city’s logic is, um, to get their issues and questions heard and raised and make sure that they are addressed before the city does move forward with this test program.” said Guinn. Bell says feedback from every side of the changes needed on Bay Street is welcome, adding that testing the waters of the changes is important to coming up with a plan that really makes a difference and addresses all the needs along the busiest roadway through the heart of Savannah’s downtown historic district. ” We want feedback from all of them, good, bad, indifferent on how the changes impact the quality of life in the downtown area, that’s the ultimate goal, is to improve the quality of life.” Bell said.
The pilot program is set to begin Sunday, September 11, 2016 and will continue through Sunday October, 9, 2016. During that time, on-street metered parking on Bay Street will be removed. The travel lanes on bay will be widened, temporary bollards will be installed on the sidewalks, and traffic barrels will be placed in the roadway to mark medians. There will also be a ban on truck traffic from 6:30 p.m. through 6:00 a.m. The City is hosting two drop-in sessions for the public to learn more about the planned pilot program, which aims to test certain measures on Bay Street. The goal is improving pedestrian safety and traffic flow on Bay between Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and East Broad Street. The sessions will be held in the Savannah Civic Center at 301 West Oglethorpe Avenue, on Wednesday, August 17. The first session is from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and a second session will go from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. City staff will be available to answer questions and receive feedback from the public regarding the pilot program on Bay.