Hyundai plant: What you need to know about roads, bridges and traffic changes near megasite

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

When Hyundai chose Bryan County to build its first EV plant in the United States, the South Korean automaker's leadership knew the site would need significant infrastructure to get employees in and around it as smoothly as possible.

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) will invest $200 million for road improvements to include a new Interstate 16 interchange to open in 2027 and to widen U.S. 280, which runs past the Hyundai site, from two to five lanes. Scott Higley, director of strategic communications for the GDOT, said the new interchange design is still in the initial phases.

Key traffic arteries beyond I-16 and U.S. 280 are slated for improvements as well. Trip Tollison, president and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, expects to see improvements to U.S. 80 and to Old River Road, which connects Georgia 204 to I-16 east of the now-under-construction plant.

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Interstate upgrades have become a focal point for Savannah-area residents in recent years as construction crews replace the I-16/1-95 interchange and widen I-16 from four lanes to six between I-516 and Pooler Parkway. In addition, ramp meters will be installed at Chatham Parkway and Dean Forest Road and a collector-distributor lane will be added on I-95 north to ease traffic flow from I-16 and I-95. The entire project should be complete some time next year.

Meanwhile, the Jimmy Deloach Parkway Extension project is nearing completion. The new road will connect the Georgia Ports Authority's Garden City Terminal to I-16 at the Bloomingdale Road interchange in west Chatham, diverting ports traffic from I-16, I-95 and Dean Forest Road.

With new and improved roads and bridges coming, the northern end of Bryan County will never look the same. Here is what you need to know:

Readying for Hyundai: Infrastructure

Hyundai is constructing an 11-building, 16 million-square-foot EV assembly plant in rural Bryan County. The factory is to sit on a 3,000-acre site and is projected to employ 8,100 workers when it reaches full capacity. The opening date is January 2025, an aggressive timeline that speaks to the growing demand for electric vehicles. The schedule also puts a premium on developing infrastructure on and around the site.

This week, Savannah Morning News' journalists will explore the major infrastructure challenges ahead. Today's focus is on transportation and access - road, bridges, interchanges and other traffic-related issues.

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

New interchange at megasite

The frontage road will be key as it will connect the new interchange to U.S. 280, where many businesses and suppliers are expecting to locate.

“It is going to be awesome,” said Tollison. “Imagine a property boundary that will be totally dedicated to Hyundai and the outside stuff will be left to us to get done.”

According to a document provided by the Coastal Regional Commission of Georgia, the interchange at I-16 and U.S. 280 will include a bridge and ramp widening. A four-lane frontage road will connect U.S. 280 to the interchange.

No timeframe has been given as far as when work will begin on the new interchange, but Tollison expects it to be complete in 2027.

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Road widenings on U.S. 280, I-16

U.S. 280 will go from two to five lanes going south from I-16 to a factory entrance road. Even with all the improvements, Tollison predicts more changes will come.

“I would think eventually they would have to widen I-16 to U.S. 280 from Pooler Parkway from four to six lanes,” said Tollison. “I think that is going to be a future project to see what the true numbers are.”

Municipalities in Bryan County will see several changes as other roads are improved. Blitchton, a small community located two miles north of the megasite, will get a roundabout at U.S. 80 and U.S. 280. Another roundabout will go in at Wilma Edwards Road, Church of God Road and U.S. 280 near the post office sometime this year or early next year.

A four-way traffic signal will be installed at U.S. 280 and the main access road for the Interstate Centre, located across I-16 from the megasite, in 2023.

Aside from those changes, Tollison pointed to traffic coming to the site from U.S. 280, U.S. 80 and Old River Road as being essential to the project.

“I think those are going to garner some attention as the plant becomes more operational,” said Tollison. “There aren’t going to be 8,100 people on day one but as they come in, the DOT is really good about incorporating the community and how they establish new projects. I think those roads are going to be an important piece in all of this.”

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Turning dirt

Mega Civil, a site prep contractor, has taken on the project of clearing the megasite. Work began Aug. 1. Senior Project Manager Adam Lee said the fast-paced nature of the agenda puts even more pressure on them to make sure they stay on track.

“For us, knowing what we are doing in 60 days may dictate what needs to be done today, so scheduling employees and equipment is key to success,” said Lee.

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Work has progressed smoothly aside from a few logistical issues when moving machinery, Lee said. He said the company is proud to be part of a project that is going to be a key contributor to growth and a huge benefit to those in and around Bryan County.

The estimated cost to clear the site is a little over $5.3 million.

Latrice Williams is a general assignment reporter covering Bryan and Effingham County. She can be reached at lwilliams6@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Hyundai plant: What you need to know about roads, bridges and traffic changes near megasite