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The repaving of Highway 80 between the Bull and Lazaretto Creek Bridges is expected to start next week. The work was originally expected to take place last November but was delayed due to some work on I-16 being done by the same contractor slated to do the Highway 80 job. The I-16 work encountered some unexpected delays which consequently pushed the 80 job back into the spring. Work was not able to be completed from December through March due to the possibility of low temperatures.
When we learned of the project, we provided a lot of input: we asked that work be done at a time that would reduce the impact on traffic flow as much as possible; we asked that the road be raised a few inches in the low areas to address flooding issues; and we asked that the lane configurations be evaluated to improve emergency vehicle access and reduce traffic tie-ups and accidents.
GDOT was very receptive to much of the input.
Work will take place Monday through Thursday after 7 pm such that most work will be done overnight. Traffic may reduced to one lane, with flag men to control direction, at various times during the project.
Also, GDOT will take advantage of this opportunity to raise the causeway in low spots to avoid future flooding issues. We have been advised that enough asphalt will be laid in some areas to raise the causeway up to 8 inches in the spots where flooding often occurs. This is welcome news and should alleviate future road closures at least in the short term.
Finally, GDOT will make changes to the lane configurations to alleviate traffic issues and open up more room for emergency vehicles. As work moved closer to commencing, we were asked by GDOT for our feedback on the possibility of eliminating the passing lanes so as to avoid traffic delays and accidents caused by merging traffic. After getting feedback on this issue from Tybee and Chatham Police, we suggested that the eastbound passing lane near Fort Pulaski be eliminated. After re-striping of the causeway a few years ago, this passing lane was shortened significantly so as to make the entrance to Fort Pulaski safer. We further advised that the westbound passing lane be maintained.
After evaluating the issue, GDOT decided to eliminate the passing lanes both eastbound and westbound. I personally objected to this decision to eliminate the westbound passing lane both in writing and through multiple phone calls as I am concerned about the impact it will have on commuters headed to work. However, the reality is that the entirety of the causeway is outside Tybee city limits and, as I was advised, this is a decision being made by GDOT and isn’t in our jurisdiction.
It should be noted that this project is not the long term solution to the safety issues on 80. The long term solution is the replacement of both bridges and widening of the causeway. There will be a public meeting on Tybee hosted by GDOT in the next few weeks to provide information about this project. There is a projected price tag of $112 million for this project.
While I personally don’t agree with the decision about the westbound passing lanes, we do appreciate GDOT’s continued commitment to address flooding and safety issues on Highway 80.