Orange pylons have been somewhat of a fixture along many Grand Strand roads for the past decade as S.C. Department of Transportation officials and local transportation officials react to the growing local population and the 15 million tourists who call the Grand Strand their seasonal getaway.
The most notable of changes is the soon-to-be-completed U.S. 17 Bypass/S.C. 707 bridge, known locally as the back gate because of its proximity to the old back gate of the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.
The $121.7 million project, which was scheduled to open to traffic in August, has been delayed due to weather in the winter and spring of 2013-2014. Traffic is expected on the bridge in October 2014.
Mike Barbee, district engineer for the S.C. Department of Transportation, said the final items to get done, including pavement markings, final touches on the retaining walls and overhead signs, should be done by mid- to late November. But that can’t happen until the soil settles at the northbound and southbound approaches to the bridge.
“We can’t lay asphalt until the ground is at a slower settlement rate, and that’s taking a little longer than anticipated,” Barbee said. “It was a pretty wet spring and when it rains, it might rain for one or two days, but the ground’s too wet to do anything for another two or three. So, we’ve probably lost a good three to four weeks weather-related.”
The project includes an overpass that eliminates the stoplight at the Farrow Parkway/S.C. 707 intersection, and keeps U.S. 17 Bypass traffic moving. It is estimated that about 70,000 vehicles pass through that intersection during peak season.
That’s just one project of the $425 million 15-project sales tax program approved by voters in 2006. The county is in the midst of creating a third slate of road projects for voters to consider in 2016.
Another project underway is the $105 million widening of S.C. 707 from a two-lane shoulder section to a five-lane curb and gutter road that will stretch a little more than nine miles, from just south of Enterprise Road to the Horry/Georgetown county line.
The project, which is set to be complete by the spring of 2017, should alleviate the traffic jams that occur from the 28,000 to 30,000 daily vehicles along that stretch.
Barbee said the SCDOT is in the brush clearing stages and utility relocation and things have been running smoothly.
“The next thing to happen is to start bringing the dirt in to support the new roadways,” Barbee said. “There has been nothing that would flag us to indicate that there will be any delays. So far we’re on schedule for 707.”
The $80 million Glenns Bay interchange and widening project, which includes an interchange at U.S. 17 Bypass and Glenns Bay Road, and the widening of Glenns Bay Road from U.S. 17 Bypass to U.S. 17 Business, is underway.
“We’re still trying to get the contract executed with the contractors,” Barbee said. “We’re looking at an official notice to proceed date in early October.”
He said equipment should be on site in mid- to late October, and construction is scheduled to be complete by the summer of 2017.
The county will also be working on the International Drive project – a $15.5 million project designed to pave and widen about 51/2 miles of roadway between S.C. 90 and River Oaks Drive – beginning in 2016.
Finally, the next big project is a $237 million extension of Carolina Bays Parkway, also known as S.C. 31, to about S.C. 707. It has been a multi-year project funded mostly by State Infrastructure Bank Funds, and in part with American Recovery and Investment Act Funds and local match dollars.
The nearly four-mile extension will be a multi-lane highway that includes a bridge over the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Construction is slated to be completed by the spring of 2017.
Barbee said a 3,800-foot-long bridge is part of the project, which is about $35 million under budget.
“That one’s going very well,” Barbee said. “The contractor is doing the foundations for the Intracoastal Waterway bridge now.”
He said the SCDOT is not counting its projected surplus just yet.
“You never know what’s under the ground down there, but we feel like the proper contingencies have been in place that the underrun will hold true,” Barbee said.
Follow Jason on Twitter @TSN_JRodriguez.