After a three-year delay, and many more years in the making, the widening of S.C. 707 is about a week away.
“We’ve heard enough to know that the need at this point is dire to fix the problems that are going on out there in the a.m. and p.m. peaks,” said Mike Barbee, , regional production engineer with S.C. Department of Transportation. “We’ve heard enough that the message has been communicated clearly.”
In early 2010, the SCDOT was ordered to incorporate the S.C. 31, locally known as Carolina Bays Parkway, road extension and the widening of S.C. 707 projects into one project. By March of that year, it had applied for a modification to the S.C. 31 permit in order to change the extension from U.S. 17 to S.C. 707 and to add a ramp to the S.C. 544/Carolina Bays Parkway interchange.
The process got as far as public notice, which means it cleared all hurdles by the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That is until the Corps received comments to the permit – an objection that was estimated to cost taxpayers at least $20 million more than county and state officials planned.
Construction on Carolina Bays Parkway and S.C. 707 was set to begin in 2011 and both were going to be completed by the summer of 2014. Both are aimed to address the congested southend of Horry County. As with all road projects, the public had a chance to give its input on the projects and the Coastal Conservation League, through the Southern Environmental Law Center, did. In fact, it’s the comments that some officials point to as the cause for the delay. The league is designed to protect the natural environment of the South Carolina coastal plain, according to its website.
The projects were slated to be completed by next summer. Instead, that’s when the S.C. 707 project will really start to get moving.
“By next spring, we should have most of our clearing done,” Barbee said. “At that point, we’ll start preparing the base course for the new roadway. There’ll be a lot of paving activity going on next summer and fall.”
Lisa Bourcier, spokeswoman for Horry County, said the county has not had as many calls about the widening project as it has for projects like the Highway 17 Bypass/S.C. 707 intersection project. But, she said, officials are ready to get the project completed.
“I think we’re just ready to get it done,” Bourcier said Tuesday. “I think everybody’s just ready to get this project underway and it get it completed just as soon as possible.”
A groundbreaking to commemorate the project’s start is scheduled for Nov. 6.
“I’m sure once the equipment starts to appear and contractors start staking the road, it’s going to start people talking again like, ‘Good, it’s starting to get underway,’” Bourcier said.
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.