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Road for RFT on the horizon for the IDA
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As the Effingham Industrial Development Authority begins to think about the future of Research Forest Tract, it also has to find the answer to a question about the sprawling parcel — how to get in and out of there.

An entrance road from the east side of the Research Forest Tract would allow for access to Tract D, which is adjacent to Rincon and is potentially the parcel that could be ready to develop sooner. That road also could be extended to be an east-west route across the entire Research Forest Tract. The IDA is looking at the east-west connector through the Research Forest Tract as a road that would lead from the planned Effingham Parkway to Highway 21.

The priority list from the countywide transportation committee was whittled down to five from nearly a dozen and the list includes Effingham Parkway and the east-west connector for the Research Forest Tract.

The IDA asked Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung three years ago to look at possible entry points from Highway 21 into the Research Forest Tract.

“We put that on the backburner,” IDA CEO John Henry said.

But the IDA has asked the engineering firm to take another look at that. What the IDA would like to do is extend Fort Howard Road into the tract, but there are several considerations — not to mention how to cross the CSX rail line.

“We need to know what we’re looking at,” Henry said. “More than we’d like to have a road, we just don’t know what it’s going to look like.”

Henry, IDA Chairman Chap Bennett and Dennis Webb met with Rincon City Council earlier this month to discuss Research Forest entrance.

“An engineer just has to be on board,” Bennett said.

He added the IDA may need to meet with Rincon again once engineering work is done.

“We need to keep things going along,” Bennett said. “I think it’s going to take us to be the catalyst. There are some huge questions out there. But this is information we’ve got to have to continue talks.”

Also itemized on the priority list are the Springfield bypass and replacing the trestle that is difficult for log trucks to pass under, creating more traffic on Laurel Street.

The next step, Henry said, is putting together a communication effort with state and federal officials to help get funding.

“I’m excited,” Bennett said. “Having everything together will put us in the lead when money becomes available. The idea is not to get discouraged now.”

Said Rincon City Manager Michael Phillips: “Now is the time to do it, so when they open that door back up, we’ll be number one on the list.’

The IDA also wants to get the improvements on the overpass at I-16 and Old River Road moving. But no money had been budgeted for the state Department of Transportation to review those plans.

Plans for the I-16 tracts have included 6 million square feet of space, mostly for warehousing and distribution. But container traffic at the Savannah port is down almost 16 percent, IDA project manager Ryan Moore said, and the vacancy rate for all industrial property in the greater Savannah market is 19 percent. There is 24.7 million square feet of big box space, and 27 percent of it is empty. The market is for buildings of 50,000 to 150,000 square feet, according to Moore.

There is no indication that any speculative warehouse construction will take place for the next three to four years.