The southern extension of S.C. Highway 31 is now scheduled to be open by this fall.
Once completed, the new, 3.8 miles of the Carolina Bays Parkway will extend from S.C. Highway 544 and connect with S.C. Highway 707, giving travelers a way to effectively bypass traffic along U.S. Highway 17 through Myrtle Beach.
The road will be three lanes in each directions.
“It will allow another access point across the Intracoastal Waterway,” S.C. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary of Engineer Leland Colvin said.
On Monday, SCDOT officials gave a news conference on the unopened portion of the extension and why the road is not open. As first reported by The Sun News in June, Colvin said crews have been working on the bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway to replace a deck that was showing premature cracking.
The cracks were not a structural problem with the bridge, he said. While it would have been safe to drive on, opening the bridge would have greatly reduced the long-term use of the bridge.
Construction crews are about half-way done with re-decking the bridge, which will ensure the bridge gets a full, 100-year life cycle.
The original completion date was 2017. While the bridge is requiring unforeseen work, Colvin said the entire project is only 2 percent over its $97.8 million budget.
The original contractors, Flatiron Construction, were responsible for paying a late fee for every day the road is behind schedule. Currently, it lost more than $3 million due to being late.
“The contractor is in liquidated damages due to being behind schedule to the tune of $3 million,” Colvin said in a previous interview with The Sun News. “Any rework being done there has no payment set aside, so they’re paying it on their own nickel.”
SCDOT believes it was the concrete curing problem that led to the issue with the deck cracking.
“It is definitely a curing issue because we didn’t have this issue on any other span of the bridge,” Colvin said. “Curing concrete is definitely a science that has to be done the right way.”
SCDOT also blames weather delays for the delay in the project’s completion. Any potential bad weather this fall shouldn’t affect the opening day of the road, Colvin said. He said folks can expect to drive the extended Highway 31 before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Certainly weather always has an impact. The good news is when you start talking structural components of the project, that is the amount of the work that has the least amount of impact associated with any kind of inclement weather,” Colvin said.