Members of the Rotary Club of Richmond Hill were some of the first to hear the news in the latest developments with the potential interchange at Belfast Siding Road and Interstate 95 on Thursday when State Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, spoke to the group.
“I’m here to tell you, unless there is something major that happens with our federal funding … we’re going to start construction in 2018,” Stephens told the group during its weekly meeting at the Richmond Hill City Center.
Stephens emphasized that 2018 is just a target date for the project and noted the details are not yet finalized. But he said the news is a step in positive economic development for the area.
“We have a target date and a few details to work out, but that (interchange) is going to change the face of this area, and almost overnight,” he said. “Because as the dominoes begin to fall, the economic development begins to happen in that area and everybody benefits.”
Bryan County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed was also at the meeting. He said although the county has verbal confirmation the project has been slated for 2018 on the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Project (STIP) list, nothing is set in stone.
“I don’t really have any particulars other than (DOT officials) said if federal funding comes forward — which is a big question mark because the federal highway bill they just passed only goes through 2016, and our project is on the list for 2018,” Burnsed said after the meeting. “So it is dependent upon federal funding.”
During his talk with the Rotary Club, Stephens compared the future interchange to the growth that Pooler has seen in recent years.
“For those of you that go down to the airport (at I-95 in Pooler), take a look,” he said. “That was a new interchange not very many years ago and look what’s happened to Pooler, Ga. — the new Pooler, Ga. — it is exploding.
“If you’ve ever gone to Jacksonville, Fla., they’ve built a brand new shopping extravaganza, so to speak, called Town Centre … and they’re going to open one here right near that interchange (in Pooler). That’s where people migrate, and you’re going to see the very same thing happen right here in Bryan County.”
Burnsed added the county should receive a draft STIP list sometime in June, which will determine whether the project will happen.
“We were planning on making a big splash with it whenever we see that document just to confirm that nothing has changed,” Burnsed said. “And that’s why we haven’t done anything in the way of an announcement.”