Credit: Benjamin Payne / GPB News
Tybee Island asks lawmakers to consider closing highway access when events ‘overwhelm’ city
LISTEN: A unanimously passed resolution from the Tybee Island City Council seeks legislative assistance, following last month's Orange Crush event. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.
The Tybee Island City Council unanimously passed a resolution Thursday that calls for state and federal lawmakers to consider restricting access to the island when it becomes overly crowded by events which “overwhelm” the city's capacity.
This comes in the wake of last month's Orange Crush festival, when an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people — mostly students from historically Black colleges and universities — visited Tybee, in part leading to massive traffic backups and concerns over safety on the beach.
“I think we all have to be behind this, because this is about public safety, it's about infrastructure and it's about having control over keeping our resources, our people, our visitors, everyone safe,” Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions said ahead of the vote.
Among other measures, the resolution asks legislators to potentially pass a law that would restrict or even shut down U.S. Highway 80 — the only road leading into and out of Tybee Island.
Sessions added that the city does not have the authority to restrict access itself to either the highway — which is overseen by state and federal officials — or the public beach itself.
According to the most recent tourism study of Tybee Island, the city drew in an estimated 1.9 million annual visitors.
“I think sometimes it's easy for the people in Atlanta and wherever to forget about Tybee, and forget that we have a lot to deal with,” Sessions said. “And I think they're beginning to understand. They're seeing the overflow and the problems that traffic and crowds draw — that they hopefully want to help us have a safe experience for people who come here to visit.”