Bryan County, one of Georgia’s fastest-growing counties, experienced a 36.7% increase in population within the past decade with numerous new residential developments and industrial ventures locating in the area in recent years. With this increased growth, the solution for alleviating traffic congestion, stimulating economic development, and creating an additional hurricane evacuation route in Bryan County came in the form of the interchange of I-95 at Belfast Keller Road Overpass (Exit 82). As one of three interchanges with roundabouts at the ramp termini in Georgia and the first of its kind in Coastal Georgia, the new overpass provides increased connectivity for Bryan County residents by easing traffic congestion and providing an alternative route to and from the area for commuters and commerce. It is a momentous achievement for stakeholders following two decades of planning and several attempts to receive an Interchange Justification Report approval. Local leaders call the interchange a catalyst for economic development in the I-95 corridor.
With Bryan County as the local sponsor, Thomas & Hutton provided engineering services as a part of Bryan County’s Transportation Improvement Plan to design a safer, more efficient route for motorists that make the daily trip back and forth to Savannah, the ports, inland Georgia, and Fort Stewart Army Base. Thomas & Hutton provided concept development, database development, environmental documentation, preliminary design, right-of-way plan development, and final design for the project that involved the removal of the existing overpass and redesign of a new bridge, interchange, and single-lane roundabouts at the ramp termini. Thomas & Hutton conducted traffic studies to determine the needed improvements to meet projected traffic volumes. Additional services to support the design of the bridge, interchange, and roundabouts included a drainage study and survey. Our survey crews used mobile LiDAR technology to survey the travel lanes. Landscape architecture was integral to the design to preserve the roadside environment and contribute to overall sense of place. The project followed the Georgia Department of Transportation Plan Development Process and was funded with federal, state, local, and private dollars. The interchange opened on January 22, 2021, within budget and ahead of the typical schedule for a federally funded interchange.
Safety was at front of mind throughout the design process, and a traffic analysis was completed during the concept development stage to determine the appropriate intersection configurations for the ramp termini. This analysis determined roundabouts were the most efficient intersection treatment for this location. Single-lane roundabouts were implemented at the ramp termini that extends the serviceability of the interchange and the adjacent roadway to provide a service level A for the next 20 years. Additionally, the use of roundabouts reduced the project’s footprint in an environmentally sensitive area and reduced construction costs by $4 million dollars. This was done by shortening the approach links from the existing roadways.
The interchange will foster additional growth, with the existing Caesarstone plant and the Medline facility coming online soon in the area. With increased population, the interchange also provides safety and increased access to residents of Southern Bryan County in an emergency. The new interchange opens a new hurricane evacuation route, providing quicker and more efficient access to I-95 and other major roadways to evacuate in the case of approaching tropical weather. The route also gives increased connectivity for first responders who are attempting to access the area and provide their services. The creation of the Belfast Keller Interchange will provide enhanced safety and connectivity to residents and business owners in Bryan County. Calling the interchange unbelievable and a perfect example of a public/private partnership at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Georgia Governor Kemp commended the project at a roundtable discussion with community leaders to discuss the interchange’s impact on safety and economic development, all while improving the daily quality of life throughout the growing Bryan County community.
I-95 Belfast Keller Road Interchange received the following awards: