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Long trips to Savannah persist
Repairs to damaged I-95 overpass in Richmond Hill wont start until September
I-95 overpass
Traffic narrows from two lanes to one on Highway 17 north approaching the damaged Interstate 95 overpass in Richmond Hill. - photo by By Paul Floeckher

RICHMOND HILL — Repairs to the damaged Interstate 95 overpass at exit 87 will not start until next month, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The work is slated to begin in mid-September “due to the fabrication time of the steel substructure to the specific specifications needed for this project,” GDOT District Communications Officer Jill Nagel said. “Thirty-day contract completion is expected once the contactor begins work, if the weather permits.”

Meanwhile, the right lane of northbound Highway 17 at the I-95 interchange remains closed, reducing traffic to one lane traveling under the overpass. The deceleration lane for exit 87 on I-95 southbound also is closed until further notice.

That means anyone driving to Richmond Hill or Savannah from Hinesville and points west either has to be prepared to sit in a traffic jam on northbound Highway 17 approaching the I-95 interchange, or find an alternate route.

An electronic sign on eastbound Highway 84 at Leroy Coffer Highway advises motorists headed to Savannah to stay on Highway 84 and take I-95 north at the Midway interchange.

“We ask the public to be patient during this time and find alternate routes in lieu of U.S. 17 northbound at the I-95 overpass,” Nagel said.

Nine support beams were damaged when a tractor-trailer hit the overpass July 2, according to the GDOT.

The excavator that was loaded on the driver’s flatbed trailer was too high to clear the overpass and became wedged underneath it on northbound Highway 17.

The $1.4 million repair project will include removing and replacing seven of the support beams, according to Nagel. The other two beams will be kept in place and repaired, she said.

The timetable for the repairs was considerably more optimistic in the initial days following the mishap.

Nagel estimated at the time that the right lane of Highway 17 would be closed for “the next three to four weeks.”

Now, the anticipated 30-day project will not begin until next month and continue well into October.

“It’s a lot more extensive work than we anticipated,” Nagel said.

“We weren’t sure if we had to replace the beams or if they could be repaired. We’re going to have to replace seven out of nine.”

Replacing the beams cannot be done from underneath the overpass, according to Nagle.

Because I-95 sits on the beams, sections of the interstate will have to be removed and replaced, she said.

That will mean lane closures and traffic shifts along I-95 as the work is being done.

Highway 17 northbound at the overpass could be closed entirely at times, Nagel said.

“It’s going to be a very congested area there,” she said.

“If you can in any way find an alternate route, it might be longer, but I think it’ll be quicker and safer.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation suggests these alternate routes:

• Traveling on I-95 south, take exit 90 to eastbound Highway 144 to southbound Highway 17.
• Traveling on northbound Highway 17, take Highway 144 west to I-95.

The repairs will be welcomed by businesses in the I-95/Highway 17 corridor. Kevin Fabre, co-owner of Smokin Pig barbecue restaurant in Richmond Hill, said the construction barrels at exit 87 and lane closure on Highway 17 could be deterring potential customers.

“We’ve seen a little bit of reduction in business from the past three or four Julys,” Fabre said. “We kind of feel like that may have had something to do with it.”

The reconstruction contract was awarded July 28 to L.C. Whitford of Alpharetta, according to the GDOT.

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