Editorial: Tybee Road improvements: Put project on fast track

Tybee Mayor Jason Buelterman is right to urge Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to push the Georgia Department of Transportation to put the plan to improve U.S. 80 on the fast track.

 

Unfortunately, it appears the DOT has parked the Tybee Road improvement project in pit row. While DOT Commissioner Russell McMurray is sympathetic to the concerns of Tybee’s mayor and many island residents who travel the lone road that links Tybee to the mainland, his mammoth agency appears to be taking its time in addressing the road’s two bottlenecks — the narrow Bull River and Lazaretto Creek bridges.

On the bright side, the commissioner wrote in a June 4 column for this newspaper that GDOT is focused on a long-term solution for the replacement of both bridges which will result in much wider bridges with shoulders and a barrier-separated trail. He said the value engineering study, which evaluated all of the alternative recommendations and determined whether they will be incorporated into the final design plan, was completed in May. The alternatives were studied for engineering and environmental impacts to determine the best overall layout that can meet federal regulations.

While that is encouraging, progress is still slow-going. As Mr. Buelterman sees it, the main hold-up is bureaucratic red tape. He’s asking the governor to take out his ax and chop through it.

But since the DOT is an independent entity with its own 14-member board, it’s unclear exactly what Mr. Deal can do, although the governor’s support for any road project in Georgia tends to be helpful. A better idea is to encourage DOT board members to push the Tybee project and make it more of a priority inside the department.

For example, the DOT handled the replacement of the collapsed I-85 overpass lickety-split. While that Atlanta-area project was an emergency because of the volume of traffic that I-85 handles, the frequent gridlock on U.S. 80 can be an emergency when police, fire and ambulance crews can’t make it to and from Tybee because of gridlock conditions.

In addition to the governor, Mr. Buelterman also should be urging Ann Purcell to push Mr. McMurray a little harder. Ms. Purcell, a former state representative from Rincon, is this area’s representative on the DOT board.

The commissioner said in June that the DOT “is committed to providing safe and reliable roadways by implementing both short-term and long-term solutions” to problem roads like U.S. 80. While his commitment is appreciated, it would be better to see these solutions being implemented. Let’s hope the governor agrees and helps the DOT put the pedal to the metal on this needed work.

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