Horry County Councilman Gary Loftus summed up in one word what he thought about the announcement that partial traffic on the southbound back gate bridge will open by early next week: “Finally.”
Loftus said he has not had many calls about the bridge that borders his district.
“I think the public will get frustrated when they’re sitting there, but I think they kind of realize it has to happen,” Loftus said.
Contractors on Sunday will begin a process needed to shift traffic on the southbound bridge. The process will take about three days to complete and include limited lane closures on Sunday and Monday. The work will be finalized by 6 a.m. on Tuesday, according to a press release issued by Horry County.
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The $121.7 million project, known as the back gate construction because of its proximity to the old back gate of the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, 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 daily during peak season.
Ice storms last winter and a soggy spring and early summer delayed the opening of the 1,246-foot-long bridge from August to October. The S.C. Department of Transportation has a clause built into the contract with Balfour Beatty that may cost the contractor additional money for being late.
Councilman Bob Grabowski lives in the Palmetto Pointe area just south of the U.S. 17 Bypass and S.C. 707 intersection and said he can’t wait for it to open.
“It’s going to be an incredible thing,” Grabowski said. “I drive through there every single day. It’s been a long time coming. It’s been a pretty major inconvenience to have it the way it was and the traffic flow the way it was and the backups that were created.”
Grabowski said traffic out of Palmetto Pointe peaks between 7:30 and 9 a.m. during the week and he is seeing some of the changes to traffic patterns alleviate some of the congestion.
“I’ve gotten more calls about the intersection at Palmetto Pointe and the Bypass than any other area,” Grabowski said, adding that there have been traffic crashes at that intersection during construction.
Grabowski said he worked with SCDOT to keep the Palmetto Pointe traffic light and the creation of double left turn lanes to northbound U.S. 17 Bypass.
“It’s very effective having those double left turn lanes,” he said. “Once the intersection is completed and the lines are permanently drawn and drawn the way they’re supposed to be, it’ll be much better than it is now.”
The traffic shift preparation on the northbound bridge will begin at 8 p.m. on Oct. 26, and will have a similar schedule as the southbound bridge, the release states. The complete traffic shift for the northbound bridge also will take about three days. Motorist can expect limited nighttime closures Oct. 26 and Oct. 27.
The entire project will be substantially completed in November 2014 and landscaping will continue into 2015.
Loftus said given the weather delays with this project, he’ll believe it’s open when he drives across it.
“I’ll believe it’s open when it’s open,” Loftus said.