With large stretches of its main downtown streets reduced to a mess of rocks and dirt and gaping holes, Bamberg, S.C., looked more like a war zone than a quiet Southern town during work late last year and earlier this year to widen U.S. 301/601 and crossroad U.S. 78, said Earl Capps, spokesman for contractor U.S. Group Inc.
“Basically, [the streets] were torn down to dirt. … We had to pull up everything [and] start over,” said Capps, whose company is based in Columbia, S.C., approximately an hour north of Bamberg.
The $8 million project entailed widening eight blocks of U.S. 301/601, called Main Highway or Main Street, and six blocks of U.S. 78, called Heritage Highway, creating a passing zone for traffic between Charleston, S.C., and Augusta, Ga., he said.
The U.S. routes are both major regional highways, and a lot of logging trucks pass through the town, Capps said.
U.S. 301 and U.S. 601 are concurrent between Orangeburg, S.C., and just south of Bamberg, where they diverge and U.S. 301 continues into Georgia while U.S. 601 heads toward South Carolina’s southern coast.
Designed to address a number of concerns, the job also included replacing parallel parking spaces along U.S. 301/601 — deemed dangerous because of a decline in the road coming into town that left blind spots — with a greater number of protected parking spaces in lots created immediately off both sides of U.S. 301/601, Capps said.
It also involved widening five intersections along U.S. 301/601 to provide safer turning radii for trucks traveling through Bamberg, he said, so work extended a block on four side streets on both sides of U.S. 301/601 as well as on U.S. 78.
The job featured replacement and upgrading of utilities along U.S. 301/601, so the existing two-lane road was completely torn up. A new four-lane road was built in its place instead of just resurfacing the base of the two-lane road then adding a lane on either side, Capps said.
The project also included aesthetic improvements along U.S. 301/601 and the demolition of several abandoned buildings, he said.
Work started June 26, 2006, with completion targeted for Nov. 3, Capps said. At this point, the job is actually ahead of schedule, due to no major obstacles or weather delays, he said.
“No surprises under the dirt, which is rare,” Capps said.
The company also was fortunate in that the 2006 hurricane season fizzled, he said, though the 2007 hurricane season — and its potential for weather-related delays — is in full swing.
The project has entailed a lot of earthmoving, including placement of 27,000 cu. yd. (20,600 cu m) of new suitable material as well as removal of 15,607 sq. yd. (13,000 sq m) of existing concrete and asphalt pavement, Capps said.
When work is completed, workers will have placed roughly 26,000 tons (23,600 t) of various types of asphalt, approximately 12,000 ft. (3,700 m) of curb, 5,700 sq. yd. (4,770 sq m) of sidewalk and 9,760 ft. (2,970 m) of reinforced concrete pipe, he said. The job also involved building 127 catch basins, junction boxes and manholes for storm drain, water and sewage lines.
U.S. Group has had approximately 20 workers, including management, on the job, Capps said. They have been working a single shift, with the exception of one 36-hour interval over a weekend to cut down a major intersection, he said.
Numerous Caterpillars — all but one of which is company-owned — were put to work on the project. Equipment on the job included Cat 320, 325 and 330 crawler excavators, a Cat 416 backhoe loader, a Cat 315 excavator, three Cat motor graders and three Cat rollers, all owned by U.S. Group, Capps said.
Most of those Cats were purchased from Blanchard Machinery Company in West Columbia, S.C., according to Doyce Hendrix, shop coordinator for U.S. Group.
The company-owned Komatsu bulldozer and Ingersoll Rand roller used on the job were purchased from Linder Industrial Machinery Company in West Columbia, Hendrix said.
The company rented a rubber-tire Caterpillar 416 backhoe loader with hammer attachment from Blanchard Machinery’s Cat Rental Store in West Columbia, he said.
The equipment was used to build a 10,000 ft. (3,000 m) drainage ditch; to lay storm drainage, water and sewer lines; to dig a barrow pit; and to grade the roadway, Capps said.
U.S. Group also rented a 70-ton (63 t) Link-Belt crane for three days to set a precast box culvert structure, he said.
Rea Contracting LLC of Columbia, S.C., did the asphalt paving and was, by far, the largest subcontractor on the job, Capps said.
J. Moore Electrical Contractors Inc. of Swansea, S.C., was brought in to do another big job: relocation of electrical lines, he said.
U.S. Group performed all the water and sewer installation work — some areas in the century-old town involving excavation as deep as 19 ft. (5.8 m), Capps said.
The company also had to use a special trench box, he said.
As is typical with such a project, all new lines replaced the aged utilities running under the town, Capps said. The new lines will last longer than the roadway, he said.
Bamberg’s history as a railroad town came up during the project, said Capps, who said the first rail line went through the farming community in the 1820s.
Part of the new roadway was built over some of the historic but long-abandoned rail line, he said.
The project is winding up, with some curbs and sidewalks to finish on all the streets involved and new street lighting still to be installed on U.S. 301/601, Capps said.
To complete the work, the roads will be closed for a few more weeks, he said.
Although the project went smoothly work-wise, it was disruptive to the town by its nature and, while the businesses along U.S. 301/601 have remained accessible, traffic has had to be detoured around the work area, Capps said.
“While this project had been in planning for nearly a decade, it has received a mixed reception by the community, mostly due to the closure of Main Street for much of 2007,” he said.
“The detour around this for traffic has been a major inconvenience for motorists. The closure of Main Street has been a major headache for Main Street business owners, even though we have maintained continual access to those businesses.”
Because keeping the public informed is key, the company established a formal public relations department five years ago, he said, noting that U.S. Group believes it was the first contractor in the Carolinas to do so.
The company has held community meetings to try to explain what would be happening and has given the local newspaper a monthly column informing residents of the job’s progress and giving closure and detour information, Capps said.
“We’d rather let them hear from us than just hide,” he said.
Capps said the news media and local leaders have provided excellent assistance in keeping the public informed and in trying to reduce closure-related problems.
He said the company also appreciates the teamwork with the SCDOT, local public works staff and subcontractors that has helped to shorten some closures.
In addition to a downtown that is safer to drive through and park in, U.S. Group left another mark on the small town.
The company is proud of an initiative by its project manager, Lane Anderson, a U.S. Navy Reserve diver and demolition expert, to restore and improve a neglected veterans’ memorial in the project area, Capps said.
“This should help the community better remember the sacrifices made by Bamberg’s native sons and daughters in uniform,” he said. CEG