Businesses and residents along Enterprise Road have been through the road being closed before, but never to the nine-month extent the S.C. Department of Transportation plans for later this summer.
And with construction underway for the widening of nearby S.C. 707 and future construction plans for Bay Road – both roads being used as detours to get around the Enterprise Road construction – area businesses worry the swelling traffic jams will do damage to their bottom line.
Horry County officials, however, say it would be too expensive and would delay the project by months if it were to change plans now, and Horry County Councilman Bob Grabowski, who supported the closure, said the option to build a road around the construction would require the acquisition of several personal homes and properties, which is something he does not support.
Enterprise Road has an annual average daily traffic count of 4,200 vehicles per day as of 2012, according to the latest figures provided by Horry County.
The Enterprise Road construction is part of the extension of S.C. 31 from S.C. 544 to just north of Moss Creek Road. The overall project will cost $237 million and is scheduled to be completed in 2017. Current plans call for the closure of Enterprise Road from east of Butler Road to west of Hunters Horn Lane from August through May 2015.
The public had two opportunities to speak out on the project during public hearings in September 2009 and December 2012. Between those two hearings, Enterprise Road was going through another construction period to re-construct a bridge near the S.C. 707 intersection on Enterprise Road in 2011. It was construction that hurt the nearby 80-acre Waccatee Zoo and the family that owns and operates the zoo worries about the impact this construction will have on it.
The zoo has been at its location on Enterprise Road for 26 years. The zoo is not government funded, subsidized or helped in anyway. It relies on the gate fees it collects from patrons. Jeff Futrell, whose family owns and runs the Waccatee Zoo, estimates 90 percent of the traffic the zoo receives comes from what will be the closed portion of Enterprise Road.
“The impact is just untold because of the time frame and the length of time frame they’re going to close it,” said Futrell. “Yes, people will still be able to get here, because they can go around the Bay Road. ... But they’ve got a big project widening [S.C.] 707 and now they’re going to widen part of the Bay Road. Now all of this is going to coincide at some time and the amount of traffic is going to be too much. ... When you put all those projects, it just seems like nobody cares what happens.”
The S.C. Department of Transportation, who is overseeing the project, referred all questions to Lisa Bourcier, spokeswoman for Horry County. She said making any modifications now would be too costly and delay the project for months.
“Redesigning the proposed bridge on Enterprise Road to eliminate the detour during construction would require additional design, the purchase of additional right of way, modification of the [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’] environmental permits and result in delays of six to nine months on the project,” Bourcier said. “There would also be increased costs.”
The 2011 closing of Enterprise Road is still fresh in the mind of Sherry Harrelson, general manager of the Osprey Marina. She said up to 90 percent of traffic that uses the 240-slip marina comes from the S.C. 707 area, which will be closed during construction.
“We had several boats that pulled out, and we lost fuel sales because people weren’t using their boats because they didn’t want to drive all the way around to Bay Road or [S.C] 707,” Harrelson said.
And she dreads what this construction will bring.
“This time, I already know, one of our larger boats is definitely going to be moving because he lives on his boat and so he’s going to move to another marina so he can get to and from work easier,” she said.
Residents like Paul DiStefano, who lives in a subdivision along Enterprise Road, will also be impacted by the construction and he even considered calling his County Councilman, Grabowski, to see if something can be done.
“If he needs a petition, I’ll start going around and get it,” DiStefano said.
Grabowski said he tried to coordinate the 2011 closing with this closing to ease the inconvenience to his constituents, but delays due to challenges for permits to build S.C. 31 delayed this project.
“I know it’s inconvenient,” Grabowski said. “The options that we had were re-directing the route, and that involved taking of property, which is distasteful to me at anytime. It involved buying a couple of homes and the taking of property from the people who lived there. The other option was closing the road. ... The short-term pain is definitely going to be worth the long-term gain.”
DiStefano said there is a lot of school traffic during the morning and afternoon commutes, as well.
“The school buses are going to come to a dead end and have to go all the way around to get these kids,” he said. “Kids are going to have to get up a half-hour earlier and stand out there and wait for the bus.”
Jim Wright, transportation director for Horry County Schools, said the school district will hash out its plan to pick up and drop off students later this summer.
“We’ve talked about it, but we haven’t put down the final plan to it yet,” Wright said. “We’re probably going to bring buses in to that point [where Enterprise is blocked off], and turn around to get back out. We’ll end up doing the same thing on the other side [of Enterprise].”
He said it is too early to tell if students will pick up the bus at different times than it did this year.
“We won’t get into that until a little bit later on in the summer,” Wright said. “The stops will be the stops, but I haven’t gotten into that detail just yet.”
DiStefano suggests to make a square temporary road around one side of the road to allow for construction to continue and only a slight detour of traffic.
“They have all that land right now,” DiStefano said. “I’d like to see a pebble road. Do 15 mph just to get around construction.
“I just think that there’s definitely a solution and I wish they would be a little more flexible and help the people and the business, I think that would make everybody happy.”
Bourcier said keeping one lane open is simply not an option.
“The new bridge and its approaches will be constructed on the existing alignment of Enterprise Road,” Bourcier said. “It will not be possible to leave an open lane on Enterprise Road in order to complete the work in a safe and efficient manner.”
For Futrell, he said state officials told residents they would not close Enterprise Road during the S.C. 31 construction – a claim county officials refute – and now he just wants SCDOT to keep its word and keep Enterprise Road open.
“They promised me, years ago when they built that bridge, that they would not close the road,” Futrell said. “That they would build loops or go-arounds or have one lane open all the time. That’s all I want them to do: stick to their word.”
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or on Twitter @TSN_JRodriguez.