DOT files permits for new US 17 bridge to Savannah

kpeterson@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 25, 2012 

Traffic leaves Savannah as it moves over the Back River Bridge and into Jasper County Monday morning. The S.C. and Georgia transportation departments have applied for permits to construct a new bridge. According to plans the current bridge, which is structurally deficient, will be destroyed.

DREW MARTIN, THE ISLAND PACKET

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Work on a new bridge to connect Jasper County and Savannah could begin this year, and a Georgia transportation official says its construction will cause only minimal traffic disruption.

The Georgia and S.C. transportation departments have jointly applied for environmental permits to replace the Back River Bridge, which connects the two states on U.S. 17.

Southbound cars cross the bridge to Hutchinson Island before hitting the Talmadge Memorial Bridge, which spans the Savannah River.

The Back River Bridge is structurally deficient, according to a public notice describing the work. Jill Nagel, a Georgia DOT spokeswoman, wrote in an email that the bridge remains safe, but it is 58 years old and needs to be replaced.

The new bridge would be built west of the current span, and the old bridge would be demolished after the new crossing opens.

Construction bidding is scheduled to begin in June, if there are no delays with the environmental permits. Construction will take 24 to 30 months, Nagel said.

The project will cause only minor, short-term disruptions to U.S. 17 traffic between South Carolina and Georgia, she said.

"The existing bridge will remain open to traffic until the new bridge is completely finished and open to traffic," Nagel wrote. "Switching traffic should be a smooth transition that should take less than a week."

Officials estimate the bridge will cost about $16.5 million. The majority of the span is in Georgia, which will pay for 90 percent of its construction. South Carolina will be responsible the remainder, as well as road work within its borders.

Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

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