24 August2010

Making over Johnnie Dodds

MOUNT PLEASANT - For the next two years, it might seem like the town is trying to corner the market on traffic cones.

A contract for the largest road project in Charleston County's half-cent transportation tax program—an $84 million remake of Johnnie Dodds Boulevard and its frontage roads was approved in May. And, that is just one of four major road-widening road projects planned on U.S. Highway 17 between the Ravenel Bridge and Wando High School.

"It's all going to be going at pretty much the same time," said Kurt Taylor, Charleston County's deputy administrator responsible for transportation projects. "We are focusing intently on the traffic controls to try to avoid tie-ups."

All of the road work will be done at night, which should help. Work should begin later this year after final design plans are approved.

The county, the town, and the state are each in charge of one segment of the planned highway widening, and are working to coordinate the project. The town is seeking money for the fourth segment, which would widen Highway 17 from S.C. Highway 41 to Darrell Creek Trail near the high school.

The main goal of each project is to make the highway wide enough to handle the traffic that's resulted from residential construction along Highway 17 north of the Isle of Palms connector. There's so much congestion on parts of the highway, particularly near the Ravenel Bridge, that rush-hour traffic can come to a standstill, even when the lights are green.

The widening work will add a lane in each direction by building onto the median that exists today. The county-run project will include an overpass at Bowman Road, new limits on traffic coming onto Johnnie Dodds at Magrath Darby Boulevard, and a "smart" traffic control system that is supposed to adjust traffic lights based on conditions.

The county's project—the only one awarded to a contractor so far—also aims to turn the frontage roads between the Cooper River and Interstate 526 into a more appealing business district with sidewalks, bike lanes, and landscaping.

"The price tag amounts to $24 million per mile along the section of the highway known as Johnnie Dodds Boulevard.

Reid Banks' company, Banks Construction, landed a $55 million contract for the county's Johnnie Dodds road work recently. The North Charleston construction company will partner with United Infrastructure Group for the job.

Banks Construction handled the completed widening of Highway 17 between Hungryneck Boulevard and the Isle of Palms connector, and is working on the county's Palmetto Commerce Parkway project.

"We're really excited about being involved and having an opportunity to construct the roadway," Banks said. "Without a doubt, this will provide (job) opportunities for many men and women."

Coleman-Snow Consultants will serve as the Lead Design Firm and will assist and support UIG and Banks Construction Company on this project.

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