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County may help with I-16 interchange funding
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The Effingham County Economic Development Authority and DP Partners are inching closer and closer to development of the 1,700-acre tract the development company has plans for near Interstate 16 and Old River Road in south Effingham.

At a meeting between the county and Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl, engineer Karla Poshedly of Moreland Altobelli identified a number of problems with the site she and her team have worked out.

For one, the vertical sight distance at the northside driveway needed to be improved. By moving the driveway at least 1,000 feet from the interchange of I-16 and Old River Road and straightening the curve in Old River Road visibility would be better, according to Poshedly.

The 4-degree curve in the road would instead be straightened to form a 2-degree curve.

Making the changes would have two advantages. Poshedly said that in terms of construction, the 2-degree curve could be built without disturbing traffic on Old River Road, and they would not have to immediately disturb a property owner whose property sits to the east of Old River Road abutting the industrial park.

The bridge over I-16 would remain intact, simply widened to make it four lanes. Old River Road would become four lanes with a 24-foot median.

For the south side driveway of the industrial park, Poshedly proposed tying Van Road into it and lining up the driveway with a new subdivision street.

“It wasn’t decided yet as to whether we would make this an urban section or a rural section,” Poshedly said of the part of Old River Road that runs south of I-16.

This section of the road is designed to accommodate a speed limit of 55 mph. However, the speed could be lowered to 45 mph if so desired.

While rebuilding the interchange the ramps would be rebuilt in concrete. According to Poshedly, DOT is doing that to many of the interchanges since concrete requires less maintenance and has greater longevity.
The rough estimate of the project is $12 million, $4 million for right-of-way, $7.7 million for construction and construction management and $300,000 for utilities.

“Both entrances on the south side and on the north side of the industrial park we felt would be a safe way to go and would improve the operation of the interchange for the industrial park and for future traffic,” Poshedly said.

Linnenkohl gave the county and municipal officials present a heads-up on where the project stands.

A committee meets quarterly to decide which projects should be included in the work program. This project is scheduled to go before the committee on May 8.

“It does have a favorable recommendation,” Linnenkohl said. “I would assume that it would be added.”

Yet he tempered that by explaining how the process works for adding projects to the agenda.

The work program has just been balanced. Projects for the next six years have a cumulative cost of $19.2 billion. However, the DOT is only expecting revenue of $11.5 billion from federal and state resources, which leaves the program with a $7.7 billion shortfall before adding projects.

“So that doesn’t mean we cannot add projects to the program. It just means that once it gets in there, it’s got to compete with everything else,” Linnenkohl said.

County commissioners asked if it would help if they came up with money to pay for phases of the project, such as engineering, and if funding right-of-way acquisition and engineering would help get it started.

Linnenkohl said it would and that way, the DOT would only need to come up with around $8 million for construction instead of $12 million.

Linnenkohl advised that the first step is to add it to the program as a long-range project, and then they would determine how much is needed.

“Over the next 20 years the 6 million square feet that DP Partners is gonna put down here is gonna add about $40 million to the county,” EDA project manager Ryan Moore said. “It’s a great project.”

The EDA is prepared to pay around $5 million toward the project and when all is done DP Partners will have spent about $200 million on the park.

Moore added that the last part of the project is getting the DOT on board.

“I want to applaud everyone involved, the IDA, the community, county commissioners and how they’ve worked together,” said Jeremy Merklinger, Southeast region manager at DP Partners. “We’re excited to get started.”