Passersby of the Highway 17 Bypass and S.C. 707 interchange have been noticing some differences as the size and span of the bridge is beginning to take shape.
“Right now we’re able to start moving upward and that includes the construction of the columns that will support the bridge,” said Mike Barbee, regional production engineer for S.C. Department of Transportation. “That will be ongoing throughout the fall.”
Workers spent much of the summer focused on the underground portions of the project and the mechanical reinforcement of the soil at the location.
The $121.7 million project, known locally as the back gate construction because of its proximity to the old back gate of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, is part of a larger one-cent sales tax program approved by voters in 2006.
It is estimated that about 70,000 cars and trucks pass through that intersection at peak season.
The aim of the project is to build an overpass that eliminates the stoplight at the Farrow Parkway/S.C. 707 intersection, and keeps U.S. 17 Bypass traffic moving.
“Our goal, which we are on schedule to do right now, is to set the beams that will lay across those columns. We hope to have all that set sometime in mid-December,” Barbee said. “That’ll be another big milestone. People will not only see the supports, but the beams to go across there.”
Residents and business owners have previously said they are waiting patiently to reap the rewards of the new bridge – less congested roads and more exposure and access for businesses.
When the bridge is built, it will send Highway 17 Bypass north and south traffic past the intersection, and views of much of the signage on the southwest side of the intersection for businesses such as CVS, McDonalds and the North Gate Shopping Center will be blocked by the side of the new bridge.
A manager at CVS said she was unaware of any plans to change signage. A manager at McDonalds could not be reached for comment, and Robert Johnson, owner of Roberts Rentals Limited Partnership who owns the North Gate Shopping Center, could not be reached for comment at his home Tuesday.
Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said he has not heard of any plans for business upgrades at the back gate.
“Those businesses are feeling the impact of construction, but that project will transform the area,” Dean said.
Barbee said he looks forward to the work that’s been done on the north side of the intersection to be started on the south end.
“That’s a lot of visible progress we like to see,” he said.
With about 90 percent of the drainage work completed on the project, work is started on some of the retaining walls that will support the roadway approaches to the bridge.
As for future closures, Barbee said they should be minimal.
“There’s nothing planned right now that would require any closures except for when we set the girders in December, but that’ll likely be done on the weekend after 1 a.m.,” he said. “That’s he only thing known from now until the end of the year.”
Barbee said the completion date of mid-August next year is still a reality.
“We are still expecting to hit that date,” he said. “That’s certainly good news.”
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.