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Bridge, Highway Project Promises to Ease Traffic

Tue February 05, 2013 - Southeast Edition
Peter Hildebrandt

For those heading to Myrtle Beach from central and northern parts of South Carolina, it can, at times, feel like the old saying, “you can’t get there from here,” is the truth.

Over the years there has been talk of an interstate link to Myrtle Beach to make it a bit more accessible. But apparently any plans for such a highway at this point remain on the drawing board.

In the meantime construction work to make existing traffic flow a bit more smoothly continues. One critical exchange is the place where four-lane highway 327 intersects I-95 which takes motorists north or south. Many travelers here need to reach I-20 and head up to the state’s capital at Columbia. Since the late fall 2011 improvements to this interchange have been under construction. The completion date for the work is late 2013.

This area also has seen a great increase in traffic with workers employed at a nearby warehouse needing to get to and from their jobs. A wider highway and reconfigured interchange at this point, where these two roads come together will help traffic flow and keep drivers safer.

The total cost of the entire construction project is $15.3 million dollars. The funding came through federal and state sources for construction of the bridge, all the earthwork operations involved with the clearing, all the paving and finally all the reconstruction at the interchange itself.

The main challenge with this project, according to Mike Barbee, regional production engineer with the Pee Dee Region of South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), is dealing with the extensive amount of traffic in the area as travelers head to the beach throughout the year.

“There’s actually quite a bit of resurfacing and other highway construction work going on in the region at present,” added Barbee. “On this project, the older bridge structure will be demolished and a new, wider bridge will be constructed in its place.

“Most of the roadway work will be involved with widening and overlaying the existing pavement on SC 327 and constructing new ramps and loops at I-95 so we won’t be doing a lot of tearing out. Minor amounts of pavement removal will be included.”

The goal is to put in place a highway system designed to accommodate the increased amount of traffic that is ongoing as well as meeting current safety and design guidelines.

“Bridges, highway widening and interchange reconfigurations are pretty much our bread and butter in this area of the state,” Barbee said.

So far the weather has enabled work to proceed on schedule. The prime contractor on the job is R.E. Goodson Construction Company, Darlington, S.C., with subcontractors for the bridge work, asphalt and concrete work. Goodson is doing the grading work on the project and United Construction LLC, Great Falls, S.C. is doing the bridge construction.

Ronnie Goodson, one of the owners of R.E. Goodson Construction Company, echoed Barbee’s comments.

“The area traffic is our greatest challenge at this point,” said Goodson. “It tends to be unpredictable at times but you must be ready for it. The soil in the area is pretty much the same as is found in the region, a clay soil that retains moisture but is not impossible to work with.”

The main subcontractors on the job are C.R. Jackson, Darlington S.C., doing the asphalt work and McCarthy Improvements. McCarthy is doing the concrete work and pouring concrete on the job.

“We own most of the equipment being used on this job,” said Goodson. “The two cranes on the job are owned by United Contractors LLC, Great Falls, S.C.

Goodson’s equipment consists primarily of Caterpillar machinery including motorgraders, dozers, off-road trucks and track hoes. The graders contain GPS equipment in order to make the surface as even and level as possible. The number of workers on the job averages eight to 10 people on any given day.

Other contractors on the job have been fluctuating on the number of people on the job, according to Goodson. With the bridge and asphalt contractor workers added to Goodson’s numbers, there can be up to 30 people on the job at one time.

Goodson does small jobs up to jobs of from 60 to 70 million dollars.

“This is a medium-sized job for us,” said Goodson. “We’re pretty much on schedule with this job and haven’t had too many problems over the weeks. Even the traffic issues have, for the most part, worked out fairly smoothly. We’ve tried to schedule work so that it interferes with traffic as little as possible, especially during the high traffic flow season when travelers are heading to Myrtle Beach. The traffic count gets the highest, of course in the summertime. Lane closures and paver work is scheduled away from those times as best we can.

“We run GPS on our Caterpillar bulldozers. This enables the machine to do all of the grading itself with the operator controlling the machine; this is done for the preliminary rough work. Then we use the latest technology, including that used for fine grading, which is a total station. This is for the final preparation in getting ready for asphalt or base material to be put in place. The blade at that point in the work is controlled by programmed equipment and the elevation and location of the blade is all automatic.”

Goodson continued, “At the moment we have three projects under contract. This one is the smallest of the three. Things vary with the economy and the work availability. Normally we have two or three projects per year and at one time we have one this size or larger going on.”

Goodson does work within approximately 150 mi. of Darlington, mostly in North and South Carolina.

CR Jackson, Darlington, S.C., is another subcontractor on the job. Their biggest challenge also is dealing with the heavy traffic. Lee Harrelson is the project manager on the job.

C.R. Jackson does a lot of work for SCDOT and quite a bit of commercial work too.

“This is probably an average-sized project for us,” said Harrelson. “We average about 13 workers on the project at a time. We have Ingersoll Rand pavers, Road Tec pavers, Hamm rollers and Sakai rollers.”

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