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Georgia’s Roads Are Still Not Ready to Accommodate the Port of Savannah’s Increasing Capacity

For the past several years, the Port of Savannah has been working to expand its operations by upgrading its facilities, installing new equipment, and increasing its footprint. The problem is that improvements at the port don’t only affect port operations. They affect shipping traffic all over Georgia, which in turn affects the safety of everyone on the road.

Improvements to the Port of Savannah Have Focused on Moving More Cargo, Faster

In 2017, the Garden City terminal in the Port of Savannah added four new cranes for loading and unloading cargo, giving it the largest crane fleet of any port terminal in the U.S. It also announced its plans to add an additional four in 2018, bringing its total to 30. Once construction was completed, the Garden City terminal was able to serve up to eight ships at once.

Due in part to its upgraded facilities, the Port of Savannah processed the equivalent of 4.6 million twenty-foot cargo containers in 2019, setting a new record. To continue its expansion, the port then acquired 145 acres of new space in February of 2020.

Plans to Upgrade Road Capacity Have Fallen Behind

Georgia has long struggled with traffic congestion, and the port’s impact on traffic patterns extends far beyond Savannah. In spite of being more than 200 miles inland, Atlanta commuters in particular have to share the roads with droves of commercial vehicles carrying imports. This is part of why Atlanta is the 11th most congested city in the U.S.

Attempts have been made to increase road capacity to address this problem, such as by widening the I-16 and I-95, which both run through Savannah. However, this project has fallen far behind the changes to the port. Construction on the I-16 and I-95 was scheduled to begin in early 2019, but by February of 2020, only the most preliminary of work was underway.

Counterintuitively, shutdowns related to COVID-19 may give road construction a chance to catch up slightly with port expansions. Traffic is temporarily lighter, as more Georgia residents work from home, and shipping has slowed, prompting the Port of Savannah to set aside more space to hold containers that can’t immediately be moved. Meanwhile, infrastructure construction, including roadwork, is continuing as an essential service.

Still, Georgia highways have a long way to go before they can safely handle the everyday port traffic that will inevitably return. The bottlenecks won’t just disappear in the course of a few months, especially with the shutdowns also slowing some steps in the construction process, including inspections and permit-issuing.

More Trucks on Crowded Roads Mean More Fatalities

Even though truckers are, on the whole, some of the safest drivers on the roads, their vehicles are some of the most dangerous. Studies show that an increased volume of large trucks in traffic significantly increases the number of serious and fatal crashes. Those crashes are also much more likely to kill or seriously injure the occupants of smaller vehicles, rather than the truck drivers. The more port shipping volume exceeds what Georgia’s roads can handle, the more commuters will die.

If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one to a truck accident, the Stoddard Firm can help.