Gov. Nathan Deal endorsed Monday building an estimated $140 million highway, the Jimmy DeLoach Parkway Connector, to improve truck access to and from the Port of Savannah — America’s fourth-largest and fastest growing container port.
The project will result in a 3.1-mile, four-lane extension of the parkway built to the east of its interchange with I-95. It will extend south directly to Bourne Avenue near the port’s gate and become the main truck route between the port and I-95, relieving traffic and enhancing safety on crowded State Route 21 in the Port Wentworth area.
“This is an investment in infrastructure that is crucial not just for the port, but for the entire economy of Georgia,” said Deal. “This roadway will help in the prompt delivery of valuable cargo to and from every corner of Georgia and, in turn, preserve and create jobs in our logistics and transportation industries. Even in austere times such as these, certain projects merit being pursued. This is one of them.”
The Georgia General Assembly last year authorized selling up to $100 million in State General Obligation (G.O.) bonds to fund the project. The Ports Board of Directors and the State Transportation Board have both voiced support for the bond sale and the Transportation Board last month approved a proposal to include $91 million in DeLoach Connector financing in a planned June G.O. bond sale. Deal and the Georgia State Finance and Investment Commission support the June sale.
“This won’t be the biggest or the most expensive project Georgia DOT has ever undertaken,” Transportation Board Chairman Rudy Bowen said, “but it may be the most important since the interstate system was built 50 years ago.”
Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz agreed. “The new Jimmy DeLoach Parkway Extension will further strengthen the Port of Savannah’s position as a gateway for commerce to the Southeast. It will give Georgia the ability to move cargo seamlessly from the state’s plants, distributors and warehouses directly to our docks and back. We greatly appreciate the support of Gov. Deal, the Georgia DOT and the GPA Board; they have worked together as a team to make this project a reality and in turn improve Georgia’s long-term competitiveness,” he said.
Georgia DOT tentatively plans to award a design-build contract for the project late this year. Right of way acquisition would then begin, with construction starting in 2013 and the roadway completed and opened in 2015. State motor fuel tax revenues would be used to retire the bond debt.
Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 295,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $15.5 billion in income, $61.7 billion in revenue and $2.6 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy. The Port of Savannah handled 8.3 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume and 12 percent of all U.S. containerized exports in FY2010.
The State Transportation Board determines policy and exercises general governance of Georgia’s DOT. The Board’s 13 members, representing each of the state’s congressional districts, serve staggered, five-year terms. Board members are elected by those state senators and representatives whose legislative districts fall within all or part of the relevant congressional district.