MT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Construction is underway on the Johnnie Dodds Boulevard improvement project, a plan that has been in the works for over 15 years.
"This has definitely been a long time coming, this is an exciting day," said Councilman Teddy Pryor.
County officials broke ground on the project will widen the traffic-plagued thoroughfare from four lanes to six, drainage will be upgraded, and frontage roads will be widened to accommodate bike and pedestrian traffic.
The project, expected to finish in two years, covers a more than 3-mile stretch on Highway 17. The work zone will run from the Ravenel Bridge for three miles to the south side of the I-526 interchange. Along those three miles are many small businesses, some are only feet away from the road.
Transmissions Clinic in Mount Pleasant had to remodel its building and cut its space down by 12 feet to accommodate the wider road. While the project is supposed to cut down on traffic congestion, a local business owner says he is worried about construction hindering traffic flow into his parking lot.
"If they do interfere, we have five or six businesses that can survive with the road being torn up or not having access to the front door," said local business owner Henry Perritt.
Perritt also says losing 8 feet of his parking lot to wider roads is a nuisance, but he says something has to be done about the congestion. City councilmen say they are trying to limit the negative affects on local businesses.
Councilman Pryor says most construction will be done at night in order to aboid interfering with normal business hours.
Perritt says he has faith in the city government to do what is best for business.
The ground breaking was originally supposed to be in June, but the council and the Department of Transportation decided to take extra time to make changes to the original project design.
Crews have been doing preparation work along the route for several weeks, and with the groundbreaking, major construction will now begin.
Construction on the project is expected to be completed by early 2013. Funds from Charleston County's half-cent roads sales tax are being used to pay for the work.
Improvements of the project will include:
• Widen Johnnie Dodds Boulevard from two lanes to three lanes in both north and south directions.
• Construct curbs and gutters along the entire length of the project.
• Widen the frontage roads to provide one lane in each direction with four-foot wide, marked bicycle lanes and sidewalks.
• Traffic signal upgrades and pedestrian crosswalks will be constructed at the following intersections along Johnnie Dodds Boulevard: Magrath Darby, Mathis Ferry, Houston-Northcutt, Shelmore Boulevard and Anna Knapp, with auxiliary turn lanes where needed.
• Limit left turn lanes on Johnnie Dodds to Shelmore and Anna Knapp to a single lane with the provision for a future turn lane if needed.
• Landscaped median areas will vary width (similar to the area between Hungryneck Boulevard and the Isle of Palms Connector on US 17).
• Design and construct a replacement bridge on Bowman Road over Shem Creek, including all required roadway and drainage improvements. The bridge will be approximately 90 feet long and 80 feet wide, and will include sidewalks on both sides.
• Widen Bowman Road to six lanes from Johnnie Dodds Boulevard to Shem Creek, which will connect with the Town of Mount Pleasant's Bowman Road Widening Project when completed.
• New signal installations at several locations.
• Street lighting and landscaping will be provided along the median and between the mainline and the frontage road system