Road work in Jasper, Beau­fort coun­ties to smooth bumpy rides

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY STEPHEN FASTENAU sfas­te­[email protected]­land­

Driv­ers in Beau­fort and Jasper coun­ties should no­tice smoother com­mutes in some ar­eas in 2019, in­clud­ing a large stretch of in­ter­state, ac­cord­ing to state trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials.

Cur­rent projects in those coun­ties to­tal more than $25 mil­lion and in­clude al­most 30 roads, with mil­lions of dol­lars in new con­tracts ex­pected to be awarded in Jan­uary and Fe­bru- ary, wrote S.C. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion com­mis­sioner J. Barn­well Fish­burne in a re­cent let­ter, tout­ing the work. Fis­burne sent sim­i­lar mes­sages to con­stituents through­out South Carolina’s 6th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict.

The state’s crum­bling roads and bridges are re­ceiv­ing aid from a 10-year SCDOT plan funded by a 2017 statewide gas tax in­crease, Fish­burne said.

DOT’s re­cent statewide push to re­pair pot­holes is one area the ad­di­tional money has been ev­i­dent, said Beau­fort City Coun­cil­man Mike McFee, a mem­ber of the Low­coun­try Area Trans­porta­tion Study com­mit­tee that con­sid­ers road projects. Res­i­dents can call a hot­line or sub­mit a re­quest through an on­line por­tal to re­port a pot­hole and have it re­paired.

“They are just ask­ing the eyes on the street to tell them where these things are,” McFee said. “And that’s ob­vi­ously in re­sponse to the added gas tax and DOT’s com­mit­ment to try­ing to turn that around.”

Among the work un­der­way or ex­pected soon, ac­cord­ing to Fish­burne:

AA project ex­pected to be con­tracted out in Fe­bru­ary to pave 10 miles of I-95 be­tween Ye­massee and Ridge­land at mile mark­ers 23 to 33.

Six ac­tive paving proA jects in Beau­fort and Jasper coun­ties to­tal­ing 29 roads and more than $25 mil­lion of work. Cur­rent work in­cludes resur­fac­ing mul­ti­ple streets in down­town Beau­fort and a facelift for part of May River Road in Bluffton, DOT maps show.

Five con­tracts to reA pave 10 roads in Beau­fort County ex­pected to go out to bid in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary. A project to seal cracks on U.S. 278 in Bluffton is in the de­sign phase and a main­te­nance project planned on Ribaut Road in Port Royal has yet to be awarded, ac­cord­ing to DOT.

ATwo con­tracts ex­pected to go to bid this month that in­clude two roads and a net­work con­nect­ing to U.S. 17. DOT maps show rum­ble strips planned for nu­mer­ous roads off of U.S. 17 near Gar­dens Cor­ner. State Sen. Tom Davis, a Beau­fort Repub­li­can who fil­i­bus­tered the gas tax in­crease for mul­ti­ple leg­isla­tive ses­sions be­fore the law passed, said some re­forms came from the ef­fort, in­clud­ing more scru­tiny of how money is spent and an in­creased level of re­spon­sive­ness from DOT about road needs.

There was no doubt state roads needed work and the ef­fort to block the tax hike was not for lack of needed money but to push for more ac­count­abil­ity in how money would be spent, Davis said. He noted that the state trans­porta­tion com­mis­sion­ers are now ap­pointed by the gover­nor in­stead of law­mak­ers so that one per­son bears re­spon­si­bil­ity for DOT projects.

He wasn’t suc­cess­ful in ar­gu­ing for the same from the board of the state Trans­porta­tion In­fra­struc­ture Bank, which man­ages the purse for larger roads and bridges projects.

“I think that dol­lars are start­ing to be spent in a more re­spon­si­ble and ob­jec­tive way,” Davis said. “We still have a sys­tem that is vul­ner­a­ble to po­lit­i­cal pres­sure. You take your vic­to­ries when you can find them.”

In ad­di­tion to the road re­pairs through­out Beau­fort and Jasper coun­ties, Davis said he is hope­ful for the chances of a grant from the trans­porta­tion bank to over­haul U.S. 278 at the bridges to Hilton Head Is­land. State en­gi­neers are still eval­u­at­ing op­tions for pos­si­ble im­prove­ments, but county of­fi­cials have said widen­ing the bridges or build­ing a new cross­ing are among the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Beau­fort County vot­ers ap­proved $80 mil­lion to­ward the es­ti­mated $240 mil­lion project as part of a penny tax passed in Novem­ber. DOT has set aside an­other $40 mil­lion.

Gov. Henry McMaster of­fered a let­ter of sup­port for the match­ing grant, and lo­cal del­e­gates ex­pect to com­plete an ap­pli­ca­tion soon be­fore pitch­ing the bank board, Davis said.

STEPHEN FASTENAU sfas­te­[email protected]­

In this file photo, a crew mem­ber with Pre­ferred Ma­te­ri­als di­rects traf­fic on Sams Point Road on Lady’s Is­land dur­ing a paving project in Jan­uary 2018. Beau­fort and Jasper coun­ties have cur­rent road projects of more than $25 mil­lion and that in­cludes al­most 30 roads.

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