RINCON -- A big step toward keeping Effingham County going while growing was taken Friday morning.
The Effingham County Board of Commissioners and Effingham County Industrial Development Authority conducted a groundbreaking ceremony for the Effingham Parkway, a two-lane road that will provide an alternate north-south route to Ga. Hwy 21. The event was conducted on Goshen Road across from Hazzard Trail near Jamestown Drive.
The parkway will stretch approximately 6.4 miles from Benton Boulevard in Chatham County across Goshen Road to Blue Jay Road.
"We are real excited," Board Commissioners Chairman Wesley Corbitt said. "This is a project that has been long awaited for and we've got a lot of people here today to celebrate it."
Numerous local and state government officials were on hand, including State Transportation Board Member Ann R. Purcell, Sen. Billy Hickman, Rep. Jon Burns and Rep. Bill Hitchens.
"Someone made mention of this today -- I think I read it in Jon's article (in the Effingham Herald) -- out of all the counties in the U.S. of A,. we are in the top three percent of the fastest-growing counties in the country so this transportation (project) comes at a key time," Corbitt said.
Corbitt expressed gratitude to everyone who contributed to getting the project started. The preliminary engineering report for it was issued in 2005.
"We appreciate the team effort of all those that it took to see this project come to fruition," he said. "It is the beginning of transportation infrastructure spending which is probably doing to be somewhere around $70 million or $80 million over the next five years and that doesn't include our water and sewer infrastructure that we are doing, and the broadband. We are going to be spending probably upward of $150 million in the next five to seven years on infrastructure to improve the quality of life."
Effingham County Industrial Development Authority CEO Brandt Herndon said the parkway will be a boon for the local economy.
"This parkway will have a major impact on the Savannah Gateway Industrial Hub," he said. "It's going to allow the developers to move forward and attract good industry. There are a lot of good things happening so we are excited about this day."
The Savannah Gateway Industrial Hub, a nearby large industrial park, is being developed by OmniTRAX Inc, a transportation and transportation infrastructure holding company based in Denver, Colorado.
"I can probably speak for OmniTRAX and how excited they are to see this come to fruition," Herndon said. "We look forward to the completion and a lot of good things to come to the Savannah Gateway Industrial Hub."
The parkway will cost about $56 million, the bulk of which will come from state coffers. Effingham County's obligation is $5 million.
Burns, the House majority leader, noted that Sen. Jack Hill, who died last year, played a vital role in gaining state funding for the project.
"This appropriation was instrumentally done by him," Burns said. "Without his work, we would not have received these dollars -- and with (former) Gov. (Nathan) Deal's support. We all know what Jack Hill thought about Effingham County and to his memory goes a great big thanks -- and to his family."
The parkway project consists of constructing a new two-lane new roadway, beginning at Ga. Hwy 30 approximately 1.5 miles west of Hwy 21 and ending at Blue Jay Road, approximately 3.2 miles west of Hwy 21.
The intersection of Effingham Parkway at Blue Jay Road will be realigned to have the Effingham Parkway tie into the east side of Blue Jay Road and the west side of Blue Jay Road will form a T-intersection with Effingham Parkway.
The typical section will have 12-foot lanes with 10-foot outside shoulders (including 6.5-foot paved) on an 80-foot right-of-way.
Right-turn and left-turn lanes will be provided at the intersections of Hwy 30, Goshen Road, Walter Tuten Road and Blue Jay Road.
Purcell, who is from Rincon, said she is eager to see parkway construction begin.
"Effingham County is like anything else," she said. "Our needs are great for the transportation and the infrastructure."
Purcell said the new highway, set to be completed in April 2025, will impact industry, tourism and the Port of Savannah.
She added that GDOT officials are eager to see that Effingham County's transportation needs are met.
"We are ready to see the earth being turned. I'll just tell you," she said.
"The Effingham Parkway, when it is completed, is going to ease that congestion," she said. "It is going to decrease that travel time that we are going into the Chatham County area. It is going to increase safety that is a top priority to us in transportation. The operation and efficiency of Effingham County citizens and the traveling public will see a very positive thing that is being done here today."
Construction will begin within 30 days after Balfour Beatty receives a GDOT notification to proceed.