HST Parkway in Savannah - An Engineer's
By James R. Chambers, PE, Transportation
Design Manager, and Gregory Ramsey, EIT, Design Group Manager,
Jordan, Jones & Goulding
before the outbreak of World War II, residents of Savannah,
Georgia, dreamed of an arterial roadway that would connect the
historic downtown area on the Savannah River with the developing
neighborhoods and commercial areas to the south. In addition,
the roadway would serve to connect a number of major east-west
arterials in Savannah. Originally called the Casey Canal Parkway
for the canal that the northern portion of the route would parallel,
the name eventually was changed to the Harry S. Truman Parkway
in the early 1970s to honor the former President, who died in
1972. At one time, the City of Savannah was considering making
the parkway a toll road because no other source of financing
was available. Eventually, the project entered the Georgia Department
of Transportation's work program, and in the mid-1980s design
work began on Phases I and II, from Derenne Avenue north to
President Street. The original design concept was for a four-lane
at-grade arterial highway, but local residents protested vigorously
at the public hearing ("Atlanta has freeways, we want freeways!").
The project was redesigned as a grade-separated freeway. Phases
I and II were completed and carrying traffic by the mid-1990s.
About that time, the firm of Jordan, Jones & Goulding was
awarded the design contract for Phases III, IV, and V.
As it turned out, designing Phases I and II was child's play
compared to the three southernmost segments, which offered a
veritable smorgasbord of challenges for the design engineers.
The Phase III/IV alignments had to skirt a public golf course,
required the relocation of a lead-contaminated landfill, thread
around a large softball complex, avoid a major regional hospital,
consider environmental justice issues, mitigate the displacement
of a number of high-quality wetlands, and avoid impacting a
number of residential developments that had sprung up along
the projected route.
One of the toughest challenges was routing the proposed parkway
adjacent to the Bacon Park Golf Course, a popular 27-hole public
course. Alignments that would entirely avoid the course had
impacts to Section 4(f) properties and community facilities.
The selected alignment required the relocation of one fairway
and the reconstruction of a driving range. A long, high screen
along the parkway will prevent drivers from being bonked by
The landfill, an old long-closed municipal dumping ground,
was unavoidable because of the presence of parks and minority
neighborhoods in the corridor. Evaluations of subsurface conditions
revealed the presence of significant lead contamination. After
assessing a number of engineering alternatives for crossing
the landfill, it was decided to relocate the entire landfill
to a new lined facility.
Design engineers had to be particularly adroit in setting the
alignment to thread between a large softball complex at Paulson
Park, the Lake Mayer Recreation Area, and a major regional hospital.
Environmentally, the public softball fields and the lake were
more sacred than the hospital, so a couple of the hospital service
buildings had to be relocated. No patient areas were disturbed.
All alternate alignments unavoidably impacted wetland areas.
The preferred alignment affected 10 jurisdictional wetlands
and three jurisdictional waters. Mitigation sites, both adjacent
to the project and offsite, were located and designed to meet
the permitting requirements.
Environmental justice issues also influenced the alignment
of the parkway, with the minority community of Sandfly being
located in the corridor. Also, two proposed alternate alignments
were rejected because of adverse impacts to historic homes in
As if the designers did not have enough challenges, a bald
eagle nest with two adult eagles was found in the vicinity of
the proposed alignment. New alternates had to be developed to
reduce any potential impacts to the nesting eagles. The designers
had to follow procedures outlined in the Endangered Species
Act to resolve this issue.
Phase V (the southernmost segment) of the Harry S. Truman Parkway
is in final design at this time. The chief problems in this
phase are not man-made obstacles, but an extensive saltwater
marsh and the navigable Vernon River, which required both a
Coast Guard permit and a COE 404 permit. Special attention also
was given to the Vernonburg Historic District. The alignment
was selected to avoid noise impacts to this neighborhood, and
special attention was given to minimizing the visual impacts
of the proposed Vernon River bridge.
When Phase V of the HST Parkway is completed, it will mark
the end of a half-century of waiting by Savannah residents for
a continuous north-side route all the way through their city.
Note. James Chambers was the design engineer for Phases
I and II while employed by the Georgia DOT. Now retired from
GDOT, he is an engineering manager at Jordan, Jones & Goulding
(JJG). Greg Ramsey is a design group manager at JJG and is the
lead engineer for Phases III, IV, and V.
Back to the Top