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March 1, 2002
Dear Mr. Palladi:
Tybee folks are being told not to bother to provide input on the highway widening because it's a "done deal" just as the harbor deepening is said to be a "done deal." After last evening I'm confident that your purpose in holding hearings is to listen to all the issues regarding widening our road, be prepared to respond to citizens questions and then give careful consideration to the feasibility of this project prior to making a decision whether or not to proceed.
The following are my concerns and questions:
Safety is the number 1 defense of this project. But, I have yet to hear risk management statistics on how frequently we need to move an ambulance or fire truck through our streets to respond to an emergency vs. how frequently we need to evacuate the island for a hurricane. Our experience with major holiday weekends is that we have great difficulty in controlling traffic so that police, ambulance, and fire trucks can reach emergencies. Will increased congestion create increased difficulty in responding to emergencies thus increasing the number of life threatening events experienced by Tybee residents and tourists?
If you build it they will come. I've frequently hear someone from the communities to our west say that I thought about coming to the beach last weekend but traffic was backed up on Whitemarsh so I didn't try it. Good thinking! If traffic is backed up seven miles, there are no parking spaces on Tybee. By creating a funnel- fast traffic across the marsh and no place to put your car once you get here- are we creating gridlock as a routine weekend experience?
Tybee's most innovative solution to holiday congestion was to place orange barrels in the middle lanes to move police and emergency vehicles. This seemed to work, but at great financial expense. Who pays for the additional labor involved in placing and removing barrels and for the additional City staff needed to direct traffic and provide police protection? City staff said the overtime costs for Orange Crush in 2001, an estimated total of 11,000 cars, were $13,000. "A total of 130 police officers were called in to assist in crowd control, including not only all the regular officers Tybee could muster but representatives of the Chatham County Police and Sheriff's Office, the Georgia Highway Patrol and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The cost of the non-Tybee officers was not listed in the expense since they were paid by their own agencies " said the Tybee News. That's for one weekend.
I have lived here since 1993. The only time that there were any verifiable reports of water across our road was during the 100-year flood in 1994. Interestly, the water breached the road at Breezy Point - apparently the lowest place along the route. This location is not a part of the widening project and I've heard no plan to deal with this "weak link" in our recent concerns with high tides and the need for hurricane evacuation. This leaves me to question the purported safety concerns used to justify building this road.
Lastly, a hurricane warning is issued when a hurricane is expected to reach landfall within 24 hours. The biggest lesson learned from hurricane Floyd is to leave early according to the Savannah Morning News. If Floyd had struck many people would likely have been drowned on I - 16 with a 17-hour average drive to Atlanta. Will this project encourage folks to leave as a hurricane is approaching landfall, thus increasing rather than decreasing risk?
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