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Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 6:30am

T-SPLOST Could Remove Savannah Overpass

Savannah officials hope to tear down an old, unsightly highway ramp using a proposed transportation sales tax.

Removing the so-called downtown "flyover" has been a top economic development priority in the city for years.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard flyover was built over a half century ago to speed traffic coming into downtown.

But it destroyed part of a historic black neighborhood.

By removing it, officials would open up more than eight acres of land for residential and commercial development.

Architect and Savannah College of Art and Design Building Arts Dean Christian Sotille says, studies point to potential new homes and businesses without the seven block long eyesore.

"What you're doing is, you're creating the capacity for the city to grow again organically from the center out," Sotille says. "And it really is impossible to bring back a neighborhood fabric without removing the infrastructure of the flyover."

He also says, removing the flyover would help revitalize the neighborhood the highway split in half in the 1950's.

"It's sort of like addition from subtraction" he says. "The flyover replaced the scores of blocks that were full of residential and commercial properties. In its heydey, there were approximately 475 residences."

A regional sales tax up for a vote this month called T-SPLOST would provide most of the project's cost, leading to the possibility of a tax to build roads actually tearing one down.

The project would open up about eight acres of prime downtown land for redevelopment.

City officials plan to push the project forward with or without the T-SPLOST.

But if the funding does come through, the project could be finished in five years.