Effingham County leaders got a pledge of support from the newest member of the state’s transportation board.
Former veteran state legislator Bobby Parham, who represents the 13th District on the state transportation board, said Tuesday he will push for two of the biggest items on the county’s road wish list — the Effingham Parkway and the overhaul of the I-16 and Old River Road interchange.
“I’ll do anything in my power,” he said. “You can count on my support.”
State Rep. Jon Burns said the parkway is on newly-appointed commissioner Vance Smith’s to-do list.
“The ports is a gigantic economic engine for the entire state,” he said. “This is no longer an Effingham County project. This is a ports project. This is a worthwhile project for the entire state.”
The current proposal for the Effingham Parkway has one end at Highway 119 and stretches into Chatham County, connecting with Jimmy DeLoach Parkway between Highlands Boulevard and the I-95 interchange.
Moreland Altobelli engineer Brad Hale said the need for the Effingham Parkway is the growth in Effingham County. By design, it is planned to alleviate congestion on Highway 21.
The volume of traffic on Highway 21 is expected to double by 2035.
“(It) is approaching failing levels of service,” Hale said of Highway 21.
Effingham Parkway is being divided into two phases. The first phase would be a two-lane road, built on a four-lane right of way, from Highway 119 to Blue Jay Road. The second phase would be a four-lane, divided highway with a 55 mph speed limit, running from Blue Jay Road to Jimmy DeLoach Parkway.
It also is planned to have two intersections with traffic signals, at Blue Jay and Goshen roads. Two connectors to the Effingham Parkway — one from Highway 21 south of Goshen and another from the intersection of Highways 21 and 275.
The Effingham Parkway also will run through the Effingham Industrial Development Authority’s Research Forest Tract. The tract, IDA Chairman Chap Bennett said, is one of three megasites designated in the southeastern U.S.
“We’ve got great plans for this tract of land,” he said. “It is just a premier industrial site and the parkway is an important part of it.”
As drawn now, the Effingham Parkway will have an intersection at Highway 30 and span Monteith Road and connect with Jimmy DeLoach Parkway just west of its interchange with I-95.
“This is actually a much more simplified interchange,” Hale said.
DOT area engineer Glenn Durrence finalizing where the Chatham end of Effingham Parkway will be “is a lot closer” to happening.
But the price tag remains high — Hale estimated the construction costs at $65 million-$70 million and right-of-way acquisition at $30 million. The Effingham Parkway is a long-range project in the state Department of Transportation plans.
“This is a regional project,” said Tom Moreland of Moreland Altobelli and a former state transportation commissioner. “It has to be teamwork.”
Under the current plans, Effingham County will undertake the engineering and environmental documents to submit to the state Department of Transportation. The county will acquire the rights of way in the county, and the state will undertake construction.
“This is a very important project,’ Moreland said. “The county has spent a good deal of money on it.”
Moreland also said the improvements of the I-16/Old River Road interchange are important. When I-16 was first built, there was no interchange at Old River Road, he added, and many of the interchanges along the highway have been improved over the years. The existing off and on ramps were “jury-rigged,” Moreland said.
“It’s done all right so far,” Moreland said of the Old River Road interchange. “But it’s inadequate for the future plans of the county and the (Effingham) Industrial Development Authority.”
A reworked interchange is expected to allow development of the IDA’s holdings on either side of I-16. With the continued business at the Savannah port, and the first wave of action about a dozen miles down I-16 at the Pooler megasite, those two parcels could be attractive.
Moreland also commended the Effingham leadership and its transportation advisory board.
“These folks have got it together,” he said. “They don’t expect the state to do everything for them. They want to partner with the state, and they’ve got some exciting, big projects that are going to require partners.”