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County's best is yet to come

Guest column

POSTED: January 11, 2018 6:30 p.m.
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Carter Infinger is chairman of the Bryan County Commission.

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Happy New Year, Bryan County. The commissioners, county staff and I hope that you enjoyed your holidays … and the recent snow days as well. While it is a rarity to see snow and ice on the ground here in Coastal Georgia, last week’s wintry weather served as a great reminder to us that it can (and does) happen, so it’s best to be prepared. I commend our road crews and emergency services personnel for doing an excellent job pre-treating the roads and bridges as well as they could, and for reacting quickly and efficiently when accidents did occur.

Transportation is a necessity. As much as we’d have preferred to have the roads clear as the snow and sleet fell, we understand that residents have places to be, jobs to work, and children to pick up. Schedules often cannot be easily changed or altered because of inclement weather. That being said, if motorists are going to be out, all we can do is make conditions as safe as possible. However, that mission doesn’t apply only in the event of winter storms.

Bryan County’s elected and appointed officials are always working to make our county’s roads safer more accessible. The way we do this is by handling necessary improvements, maintaining heavily traveled routes, adding accessibility points for in-demand areas, and anticipating needs and growth that could strain traffic resources in the future. It’s not a perfect science, but it is essential.

Transportation affects everything from residents’ quality of life (Who enjoys sitting in traffic jams or running late to appointments?), to local businesses’ success (Customers need easy access to their destinations), to tourism and economic viability (Who’s going to visit our county’s attractions, spend their money here or set up shop if roads are clogged or difficult to navigate?).

Furthermore, traffic congestion issues have been a major topic of discussion at town hall meetings and forums on growth.

For those reasons and more, Bryan County is committed to making transportation issues a top priority in 2018. In the works, we’ve got the new Belfast Keller Road interchange off I-95 and the proposed widening of Highway 144. We’re looking beyond those projects, though, as we absolutely must since Bryan is one of the state’s fastest-growing counties.

The T-SPLOST levy, to be voted on in May, would raise about $20 million over five years for the county and the cities of Richmond Hill and Pembroke to use on roads. It would fund an array of projects that would complement the new I-95 and 144 projects.

A 2015 transportation study advised installing traffic lights, roundabouts or other improvements at a number of intersections, including Harris Trail at Belfast River Road, Port Royal Road at Harris Trail, and Port Royal Road at Highway 144. It would be nice to know the funds for those projects are assured. Even better: The vast majority of T-SPLOST would be paid for by non-residents at the two existing I-95 interchanges.

Also looking into the future on another front, we at the county are looking forward to working with the newly elected and sworn-in City of Richmond Hill officials. Congratulations to Mayor Russ Carpenter, who we look forward to working with to build strong municipalities in the future.

Here’s to a great 2018, as we enjoy and contribute to our communities’ anticipated growth, economic health and sustainability. The best for Bryan County is yet to come.

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