Construction and tree preservation to begin on scenic Hwy. 61

Construction and tree preservation to begin on scenic Hwy. 61
Construction will begin first on the scenic 6.5-mile portion of Highway 61 from the intersection of Highway 165 to the Charleston County line. (Source: South Carolina Department of Transportation)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - In a meeting on Monday morning, staff with the South Carolina Department of Transportation announced they will begin construction this month on 14.75 miles of Highway 61 in Dorchester County to improve the road’s safety and quality.

Construction will begin first on the scenic 6.5-mile portion of Highway 61 from the intersection of Highway 165 to the Charleston County line.

“Y’all all know how dangerous that road is,” SCDOT Comissioner Robby Robbins said as he explained his own frustrations with drivers on the roadway. “I was traveling, probably in the area between Middleton and Drayton behind a pickup truck traveling 45 miles an hour, and somebody passed both of us on a double yellow on that road.”

Improvements will include a new road bed and pavement, two 11-foot wide lanes with three-foot paved shoulders, safety rumble strips on the centerline and edge lines, higher-visibility paint and reflectors and warning signs at curves. No trees are expected to be cut down during this work.

“Our refined design for Highway 61′s improvements preserves the corridor’s live oak trees that are hundreds of years old and improves citizens’ safety as they drive along the scenic route,” Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said. “Based on a detailed analysis of seven years of crash data and significant input from the community, we were able to work with Gov. Henry McMaster and other stakeholders to alter our plans to maintain the area’s historic beauty while fulfilling our commitment to make our roads safer.”

Another 8.25-mile section of the highway from the Colleton County line to the intersection of US Highway 17-A will be repaved, receive new four-foot shoulders and rumble strips, and better paint and reflectors will be added. Construction for this section will begin after the first section is completed.

The project’s total cost of $7.8 million includes incentives for the contractor, Banks Construction who was awarded the competitive bid, to complete construction of the first phase on time.

The improvements to Highway 61 are part of SCDOT’s Rural Road Safety Program made possible by the state gas tax increase enacted in July 2017.

SCDOT has already reduced the speed limit to 45 mph on Highway 61 from the Charleston County line to Highway 165, and law enforcement has increased its patrols of the corridor.

These measures were implemented after a 2019 public meeting on the project’s plans and 450 comments that were received from the public.

SCDOT expects the construction’s scenic portion of the highway near the Charleston County line to be started by September and completed by December 2020.

Motorists can expect periodic delays and lane closures during the construction.

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