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Crews Finally Set to Finish Savannah’s Truman Parkway

Mon October 04, 2010 - Southeast Edition
Eric Olson

Residents of Savannah, Ga., will soon be able to rejoice as a massive road project that was first discussed more than 40 years ago, is finally nearing completion.

Work began earlier this summer on the fifth and final phase of the Harry S. Truman Parkway, a major north-south thoroughfare on the city’s east side.

Although the project was first planned in the 1960s, it was not until 1990 that any dirt was moved. After that, the road was built in increments over the next 20 years, delayed by everything from the expected funding problems to a pair of endangered eagles that were found to be nesting along the proposed route.

When the last phase is completed in December 2013, motorists will be able to travel along a freeway that stretches from President Street, just east of downtown along the Savannah River, south for about nine miles to Whitfield Avenue and then west across wetlands to the busy Abercorn Street corridor, near Holland Drive. This last stretch, from Whitfield to Abercorn, a total of 2.08 mi. (3.34 km) is the final phase of the project.

It could also potentially be the most problematic as much of it will need to be an elevated roadway over the Wilshire Canal, the Vernon River and an adjacent marsh.

Still, the man in charge of building the last phase of the Truman Parkway doesn’t anticipate any problems.

Jeff Kracun is a senior project manager in the Wilmington, N.C., office of Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc., a worldwide building company with lots of experience in constructing large road projects. It is Kracun’s job to get the $67.5 million project built on time and under budget.

“We have already started the bridge over the marsh and even though it will take 1,580 piles to get the roadway over that marsh, it is a pretty straightforward job,” he said from the job site. “The rest of it is building some small overpasses and grading and paving a level area for the road surface. I really don’t think there will be any problems.”

Weather also should not be a concern, he added, as the winter months in Savannah are generally pretty mild.

Assisting Balfour Beatty in getting the Truman Parkway finished is R.B. Baker Construction Inc., of nearby Garden City, Ga., and Corbett Electrical Construction in Lake Park, Ga. R.B. Baker is doing all the grading and asphalt paving on the project, while Corbett is mounting and repositioning the electrical utilities along the route.

Balfour Beatty is putting in a temporary work trestle from which to drive all of those piles throughout the marsh. To get that done, the firm is using a pair of Manitowoc 4100 cranes to drive the piles, as well as to build the bridges and overpasses on the project, Kracun said.

Currently, Kracun is employing about 18 people through his company on the early stages of the project, with the subcontractors using a number of other workers to help haul fill from a nearby site that serves as a Boy Scout camp.

“Right now, we’re hauling borrow, probably 60 percent of the borrow for the road between Whitfield Avenue and the marsh,” Kracun explained. “Then we have to go to the other side of the project and haul borrow for the stretch between White Bluff and the marsh, as well as between White Bluff and the upper part of the new road. We have probably 10 to 15 trucks continually hauling all of that fill in here.”

Beginning next March, work will begin on building a pair of overpasses, with grade-separated interchanges for the Truman Parkway at both Whitfield Avenue and White Bluff Road.

Planners have always envisioned the Truman Parkway as a thoroughfare that will increase capacity and ease congestion for the north-south traffic on Savannah’s east side. The current major north-south road is Ga. 204/Abercorn Street, but that route has seen a great deal of commercial building in the last 40 years that keeps extending south and east past the edges of town. Consequently, the traffic congestion also has continued to grow.

At the point where the Truman Parkway will tie into Abercorn are a number of shopping centers, restaurants and big box stores, so the completed portion of the parkway, with its traffic-light-free design, should be able to provide some relief for the heavy workday traffic.

Nearby DeRenne Avenue, north of the current work, which also can get quite congested with traffic, may also see some relief from the new roadway.

Residents of nearby Skidaway Island, just to the south and east, hope that they, too, will benefit from the finished parkway as it will give them an easier commute from the Abercorn corridor.

Mark Wilkes, the director of transportation for the Chatham-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission, hopes that the work on the Truman Parkway’s final phase will also get the conversation started on improving Abercorn itself in order to alleviate its traffic concerns. That might include enhancements to its pedestrian and bicycle pathways, he said.

Once completed, the Truman Parkway will offer motorists two lanes in each direction with a 24-ft. (7.3 m) wide raised median.

Hopes are that the construction will mean an increase in local jobs, maybe as many as 100 direct jobs at the peak of activity, as well as increased business for area suppliers. The jobless rate in the Savannah area is currently around eight percent.

Although the Georgia DOT provided the money for the Truman Parkway’s final phase, the road is not part of the Georgia state highway system, nor is it planned as an Interstate highway. The freeway is maintained instead by Chatham County and is one of three such roads in the state — the others are the nearby Veteran’s Parkway, also in Savannah, and the Ronald Reagan Parkway in the Atlanta area. CEG

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