Plans to widen U.S 17 near Brunswick would ease access to Golden Isles

By David Pendered

A highway expansion project near Brunswick will require the use of land that’s part of the historic Hofwyl-Broadfield rice plantation. The road project is to improve access from I-95 to the Golden Isles and the regional airport.

Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation Historic Site

The state’s plan to widen U.S. 17 near Brunswick would require an easement to use about 6 acres of land on the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation Historic Site. Credit: tripadvisor.ca

The road-widening project is the latest mark of development pressure that’s ever increasing along Georgia’s coastline.

The project requires a 6-acre easement along a stretch of the Hofwyl-Broadfield plantation that abuts U.S. 17. The project does not appear to encroach into the historic settlement or rice fields, which were established in the early 1800s.

The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to minimize construction impact on the historic site with a network of silt fence, hay bales, rock ditch check dams and riprap, according to a statement by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The erosion control measures are to be removed when construction is complete.

The public is to have a chance to voice opinions at a public meeting scheduled for Oct. 11 at the historic site’s visitors center theater. A court reporter is to be present to record all verbal comments at the meeting convened by both GDOT and DNR.

This project has gained steam as Glynn County officials are trying to establish a spaceport they envision as a major economic engine for the coastal county. The Federal Aviation Authority has those plans under review, including its proposal for rockets to be launched over Cumberland Island National Seashore.

The planned widening of U.S. 17 has been on the books since at least 2003, according to the project report kept by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

A related project has been planned since 2012 – a roundabout that’s to facilitate traffic flow at the intersection of U.S. 17 and Ga. 99, GDOT records show. Of note, Ga. 99 serves as the connector between I-95 and U.S. 17.

brunswick, road widening

The planned widening of U.S. 17 near Brunswick would improve access to the regional airport as well as the Golden Isles. Credit: dot.ga.gov

The road project aims to improve the ability of U.S. 17 to serve as a local route for traffic traveling north and south on the east side of I-95. The widening is to encompass 6.4 miles of roadway, according to a GDOT statement.

In addition, the widened road is to include an enhanced connection to I-95. GDOT intends to add a roundabout at the intersection of I-95 and Ga. 99. Ga. 99 connects the interstate highway with U.S. 17.

Plans calls for existing bridges along U.S. 17 over Thornhill Creek and Wallyleg Branch to be replaced with new four-lane structures. The exisiing right-of-way varies from 70 feet to 250 feet and the proposed right-of-way is expected to range from 200 to 250 feet.

This is a set of highlights of GDOT’s proposal:

  • Expand U.S. 17/Ga. 25 from two lanes to four lanes for a distance of about four miles, from Yacht Drive to Harry Driggers Boulevard;
  • The new road will be nearly 100 feet wide, to include two 12-foot lanes, two lanes in each direction; a 28-foot raised median; a 10-foot shoulder on each side of the highway, of which a swath 6.5 feet wide is to be paved and accommodate the state bicycle route;
  • Auxiliary turn lanes will be provided at 12 proposed median openings;
  • No traffic lights are planned because research showed they weren’t needed;
  • The design speed limit is 55 mph.

Note to readers: Details of the Oct. 11 public meeting, and instructions for submitting written comments by Oct. 26, on the proposed change of use of heritage preserve at Hofwyle-Broadfield Plantation Historic Site are available on this DNR webpage.

 

Brunswick road widening, google earth

The planned widening of U.S. 17/Ga. 25 requires an easement for about 6 acres along the western border of the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation Historic Site, an antebellum rice farm. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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