SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – After years of planning, the I-16 and I-95 improvement project is officially underway. Elected officials and developers opted for a virtual groundbreaking, but they say the occasion was just as momentous.
The I-16/I-95 interchange is the gateway to the Georgia Ports Authority. Over the years, it’s gotten a bad rap for its congestion of freight carriers and everyday commuters.
“Right now it’s a very dangerous interchange,” said Chatham County Commission Chair Al Scott. “You’ve got to be very alert when you’re traveling that interchange.”
Scott says this project will completely change the driving environment. Developers plan to widen the I-16 corridor toward the inside median, increasing the existing general roadway space.
They also plan to replace loops ramps with innovative turbine configuration system-to-system ramps. These ramps are also referred to as having a “whirlpool design” because of their spiral appearance.
The hope is that it will reduce the amount of heavy trucking in congested areas.
“That mobility is not just for the freight lines, but it is for each of us as individuals as we travel,” said Ann Purcell, who represents Georgia State Transportation Board Congressional District 1.
Leaders are hoping the project will also boost tourism. Last year, over 14 million people visited Savannah and Joe Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah, says most of them drive.
“I think the idea of having more lanes and a simpler safer intersection will improve the visitor experience right from the beginning,” said Marinelli.
The project manager says they will also build a two-lane, emergency-use median crossover on I-16 between I-95 and Dean Forest Road to help with hurricane evacuations
In addition, they’ll be installing Intelligent Transportation System technology. This will include cameras and changeable message signs to provide real-time driving conditions.
Construction will be completed in 2022 and drivers can expect delays.
“Drivers can actually anticipate some interruptions along I-95 in the evening hours and also along 1-16 eastbound and westbound in the evening hours as well,” said Ron Nelson, the project manager.
This project has been in the works since 2016.