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DOT seeks input on $15M Back River Bridge replacement

In this file photo, traffic leaves Savannah as it moves over the Back River Bridge and into Jasper County on Monday morning.
In this file photo, traffic leaves Savannah as it moves over the Back River Bridge and into Jasper County on Monday morning.

The S.C. Department of Transportation is seeking public comment about a replacement for the Back River Bridge that connects Georgia and South Carolina near Savannah.

Residents with questions or concerns about the project, expected to last 30 months and cost about $15 million, have until April 12 to contact the agency.

Construction is expected to begin this summer, Mark Lester, the DOT's director of planning and environmental, said in an email.

The work is expected to have a minimal impact on traffic, according to Georgia transportation officials.

The 58-year-old Back River Bridge is just northeast of the much larger Talmadge Memorial Bridge. It connects Hutchinson Island with Jasper County.

Although it's safe to cross, the Back River Bridge is "structurally deficient" and needs to be replaced, according to a 2011 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report.

Each day, more than 19,000 vehicles cross the span, which is about six-tenths of a mile long.

The work will result in a new two-lane bridge with 8-foot-wide shoulders on each side. Deceleration lanes also will be built on both sides of the bridge, Georgia transportation officials have said. The current two-lane bridge will remain open while the new span is being built directly west of it.

Georgia is overseeing the project and paying for 90 percent of the work. South Carolina is paying for the other 10 percent, up to $2.5 million, under an agreement with Georgia, Lester said.

The bridge, which currently has no emergency lane, has been the scene of many accidents over the years, including a fatal wreck involving a cement truck in March 2011. In November, the bridge was closed for several hours because of a three-car wreck involving a tractor trailer that broke through the guardrails and nearly drove into the river.

Lester said the public-comment period is a standard part of its Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

"We often get a variety of comments for notices like this, but most either voice their support for the project or their opposition," he said.

Jill Nagel, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said all permits have been received for the project. She expects the contract for the work to be awarded sometime in April.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.

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