Update - Feb 28, 2014
The ribbon was cut on the 5th and final phase of the Harry S. Truman Parkway Friday afternoon, despite the fact construction isn't actually finished. And it won't be open to traffic for several more weeks. That just isn't sitting well with some people.
The news came as a surprise to Chatham County leaders that Phase 5 would not be ready for Friday's ceremony. In fact, Chairman Al Scott tells News 3 he just found out Wednesday afternoon. Now county leaders are worried this makes them look bad when they say it's really the Georgia Department of Transportation's responsibility.
"We were somewhat upset about it because we've got constituents who are saying 'well we're so happy that we'll be able to take the parkway on Saturday.' Well, no you won't be able to take the parkway on Saturday," Scott said.
Even Ann Purcell of G-DOT admits the parkway is not safe to drive on yet. Crews still have painting, stripping and even putting in some guard rails to do first.
"It's not being opened today. We have a few more safety features to complete. And when those things are completed we hope to have it open to the public sometime in March, and I'm hoping early March," Purcell said.
Purcell says G-DOT held the ceremony in advance so as not to delay the opening.
"The good part about it is because we're holding this event here today, we don't have to hold off on the traveling public when we're told that yes it's ready. We will have all of this behind us with the fan fare," Purcell said.
When the parkway does open, that will mean traffic will be able to drive between Downtown and the South Side of Savannah without hitting a single red light. Phase 5 crosses over the Vernon River, runs two miles and joins up with Abercorn Extension.
Ann Purcell says the finish date depends on the weather. We've seen significant ice and rain this year that have held up crews from getting to work. But she insists they are not behind schedule so long as Phase 5 is open by March 15th.
One thing G-DOT and county leaders agree on is they hope to announce the date of the opening as soon as possible.
"I personally did not think I'd see it open in my lifetime. So I'm perfectly happy to wait another 10 days," Scott said.
We've seen some interesting comments about the ceremony from our local elected officials Friday on Facebook.
District 6 Alderman Tony Thomas said, "What idiots would schedule a ribbon cutting and lead the public on when you can't even use the thing? That's like scheduling your funeral to see who might come."
District 7 Commissioner Dean Kicklighter said, "This Georgia Department of Transportation scheduled event just kind of feels like I'd be attending someone's 100th birthday when they are in fact 99.5 years old."
Feb 27, 2014
News 3 has learned that the 5th and final phase of the Harry S. Truman Parkway will not be open to traffic tomorrow, Friday February 28th, despite the fact that it is the day of the official ribbon cutting ceremony at 3:30 pm.
Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jill Nagel told News 3 in a recorded phone conversation that construction of Phase 5 is not finished. It will likely open to traffic in Mid-March.
Chatham County spokesman Pete Nichols told News 3 over the phone that he disagrees with the decision to hold the ribbon cutting before the parkway is finished. He says that's like holding the ribbon cutting for a new Walmart and not letting the customers go inside because it's not ready yet. We did not record our conversation with Nichols because he asked us not to. He says he plans to discuss it with GDOT officials in-person Friday at the ceremony. Nichols says he is concerned this will make the Chatham County leaders look bad when it is GDOT's responsibility.
Nagel with GDOT says such ceremonial events are typically held in advance for safety reasons and so as to not delay the opening. Nagel says the same thing was done for Phases 3 and 4. But Nichols with Chatham County says that's not accurate. He says traffic was driving on Phases 3 and 4 the day of each of their ribbon cuttings.
We asked Nagel why the ceremony is being held before the parkway is finished. She said GDOT officials planned the date of the ribbon cutting far in advance and aimed for it to be as close to the finish date as possible. She says this does not mean construction is behind schedule. "We never said it would be open right after the ceremony," Nagel said.
Nagel continued to say, "Weather always plays a factor when you're dealing with road construction, with the cold weather we've been having lately and a lot of rain. But the project is still on schedule."
News 3 asked how far the Parkway is from being finished. "They're just doing a lot of guard rails, painting, and lots of cosmetic work like striping," Nagel said.
Last month News 3 reported the parkway would be open to traffic immediately after the ribbon cutting. This was information we were given by Nichols who at the time thought it was true.
Nagel told News 3 for that report that the Phase 5 ribbon cutting is ahead of schedule. However, the original plan was for the whole parkway to be opened last Fall.
When the parkway does open, that will mean traffic will be able to drive between Downtown and the South Side of Savannah without hitting a single red light. The first four phases take you from President's Street to Whitefield Avenue. Phase 5 crosses over the Vernon River, runs two miles and joins up with Abercorn Extension.
The Phase 5 ribbon cutting will be tomorrow, Friday, at 3:30 pm at the Truman Parkway parking entrance at White Bluff Rd. There will be speeches by numerous officials with GDOT, Chatham County and other interested parties.
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