U.S. 80 to Tybee Island

STATEMENT OF ISSUE:  The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) proposes bridge construction activities and minor shoulder widening within a 6-mile segment of U.S. Highway 80 (U.S. 80) from Talahi Island to Tybee Island in Chatham County, Georgia.  Existing conditions along the proposed route demonstrate a combination of project needs including: a) structurally deficient bridge over Lazaretto Creek; b) highway flooding during storms; and c) severe traffic congestion due to highway incidents and tourist traffic to and from Tybee Island.  The Savannah District has not received a permit application for the proposed work.

BACKGROUND:  The proposed improvements to U.S. 80 have been studied for more than 15 years.  Most recently, the Coastal Region Metropolitan Planning Organization conducted an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funded study which concluded that travel between Tybee Island and the mainland is limited by access on the existing Bull River and Lazaretto Creek bridges.  A Department of the Army (DA) individual permit pursuant to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act is required to authorize the proposed project.  A USCG permit pursuant to Section 9 of the Rivers and Harbors Act will also be required to replace the bridges over the Bull River and Lazaretto Creek.  Additionally, a majority of the project alignment is located on National Park Service (NPS) property and adjacent to the Fort Pulaski National Monument requiring a NPS Special Use Permit.  

On June 3 and July 28, 2015, Congressman Buddy Carter’s office contacted the Savannah District and inquired into issues associated with replacing the existing 2-lane U.S. 80 with an elevated, 4-lane highway to Tybee Island.  This would result in much greater impacts to DA jurisdiction and NPS property, resulting in an extended permit evaluation process and the potential need for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  GDOT informed the Savannah District that it has not conducted the background work necessary to propose this type of project.

On July 31, 2015, Senator Johnny Isakson sent correspondence to Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy, ASA-CW, supporting GDOT’s original proposal to work on the bridges and widen the shoulders of the existing highway.  The Savannah District coordinated with SAD, HQ-Regulatory and the OASA-CW responding to Senator Isakson that depending on project funding, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) may take the lead on certain aspects of the NEPA, cultural resources and endangered species evaluation.  The Savannah District would work closely with FHWA and GDOT to evaluate any permit application received as expeditiously as possible.
CURRENT STATUS:  No application received.  No action at this time.

:  Brian Moore, Coastal Branch, Regulatory Division, (912) 652-5349.