Parts of I-16 eastbound to close Saturday; lanes to reverse for Hurricane Irma evacuees

Most of Interstate 16 eastbound is set to close Saturday morning so the lanes can be reversed to accommodate the throng of people evacuating south Georgia and Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma.

All traffic on I-16 from Savannah to Dublin will flow westbound starting at 8 a.m., according to a Thursday statement from Gov. Nathan Deal’s office.

A median crossover on I-16, east of I-95, will allow traffic to cross onto the I-16 eastbound lanes but travel west. Another crossover at Ga. 26 and I-16 in Laurens County will direct traffic back to the westbound lanes for normal traffic flow.

All westbound exits will be open, and most eastbound interstate ramps will be closed from Dublin to Savannah.

Travelers driving west in the eastbound lanes Saturday will be limited to the following exits:

▪ Exit 143 for Ga. 30, U.S. 280 and J.O. Bacon Highway;

▪ Exit 116 for Ga. 73, U.S. 301 and U.S. 25;

▪ Exit 104 for Ga. 23 and Ga. 121;

▪ Exit 90 for Ga. 4 and U.S. 1;

▪ Exit 71 for Ga. 15 and Ga. 78;

▪ Exit 67 Ga. 29 and Hugh M. Gillis Sr. Highway;

▪ Exit 51 at Ga. 31, U.S. 319 and U.S. 441.

State officials call it a “contraflow” when one direction of the interstate is reversed so that both sides are traveling in one direction.

“Contraflow will remain in place as long as needed,” spokeswoman Kimberly Larson with the Georgia Department of Transportation, wrote in an email to The Telegraph. “We will monitor from our traffic ops center. Direction will come from” the state and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

The last time the eastbound lanes of I-16 were closed for westbound traffic was in early October, when Hurricane Matthew threatened coastal Georgia.

Construction was suspended Wednesday for I-75 northbound and I-16 westbound, Larson said.

Parts of I-75 North were backed up for miles Thursday, including stretches near Cordele, Valdosta, Perry and from Forsyth to Jonesboro.

Interstate 16 near the I-75 split also was congested Thursday afternoon.

For current traffic conditions in Georgia, call 511 or visit 511ga.org.

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor