The closure of the intersection at Demere Road and East Beach Causeway caused a lot of consternation for St. Simons Island motorists Tuesday, but the congestion did not repeat itself on Wednesday.
The intersection is closed while county contractors replace the old one-way stop T-junction with a roundabout. County officials expect to wrap up construction within two weeks.
In the meantime, the only detour is on Kings Way and Frederica Road, around the St. Simons Island McKinnon Airport. It’s put a lot of pressure on the intersection of the two main arteries, and the Glynn-Brunswick E911 Center dealt with an influx of calls about congested traffic in the area “all throughout the day” Tuesday, said E911 Director Steve Usher.
Inquiries about traffic congestion usually come from motorists stuck on the F.J. Torras Causeway, he explained, but many more calls than usual came Tuesday from people trying to get around the Demere Road closure.
By Wednesday, the number of calls had dropped back to near-normal. Usher speculated that word of the closure had spread around enough that few driving through the area remained unaware.
“This is not scientific by any means, but just the fact that there was heavy traffic is why we got a lot of calls and it’s people adapting to a new traffic pattern,” Usher said.
The closure also affected school buses, which were able to get students to school on time but ran roughly 45 minutes late in the afternoon.
“It’s pushed the buses back, as well as our carpool pickup. Those folks were waiting for quite a while yesterday,” said Katy Ginn, principal at St. Simons Elementary. “I know it was the first day, so I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.”
Traffic was smoother Wednesday and was a “night and day difference” from the day before, she said.
Cap Fendig, owner and operator of Lighthouse Trolleys and a Republican candidate for the District 2 county commission post, said he knew about the closure and had planned ahead of time to put all sightseeing and ghost tours on hold for the next two weeks.
“You’ve heard of the three-hour tour?” Fendig said, referencing the TV show Gilligan’s Island. “That’s what our hour-and-a-half tour is now.”
He wasn’t too put out by it, however. Tuesday was the beginning of the island’s offseason for tourism.