The cost of 'barrel racing' in Mount Pleasant

Highway 17 construction project information officer Ed Barbie says 5,000 orange barrels line the side of the highway from near the foot of the Ravenel Bridge to North Mount Pleasant where the project ends. (Dean Stephens/WCIV)

By Dean

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- From the base of the Ravenel Bridge east of the Cooper River to just north of Wando High School some ten miles away, they have become a part of the East Cooper landscape.

We are talking about barrels. Orange barrels. And plenty of them.

Ed Barbie is the construction project information officer with the town of Mt. Pleasant.

"5,000 barrels are being used for this project that literally stretches from one end of town to the other," Barbie said.

And those barrels don't come cheap.

We checked several web sites that specialize in road construction material and found those orange barrels with white stripes and a solid black base can be costly. They range in price from $30 dollars all the way to $85 dollars. If construction companies place bulk orders the price of the barrels are reduced.

By taking a median price of 50 dollars per barrel, the cost to line the project carries a price tag of $250,000 dollars.

The road project is being handled by two different companies. One works the stretch from the Ravenel Bridge to Bowman road. The other company handles the work north of 526 to Wando High school.

Reid Banks is the President of Banks Construction.

"While this has been a very challenging project, we have a team of dedicated and loyal stakeholders who continue to make significant progress toward a successful completion of this major road improvement initiative," said Banks. "We are appreciative of the coordination effort by Charleston County, SCDOT, and the Town of Mt. Pleasant in building this project."

Safety is the number one priority for those involved with the project.

A rough estimate puts the total number of cars traveling through the work zones over the last year at 12 million.

And it's those orange barrels that separate workers from vehicles.

"Our group has worked over 230,000 man-hours with two lost-time accidents," said Billy Grayson, Safety Director of Banks Construction. "The project employs a Safety Manager who implements our comprehensive safety program, which include use of high-visibility Class III safety garments, channelization devices (approximately 2,200 orange barrels), crash trucks, light plants, message boards and advance warning signs. Project specific safety measures also include the reduction of the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph."

Barbie continues to stress caution for those driving through the construction zone.

"Slow down, get off your phone, be aware of your surroundings and be patient," Barbie said.

The one problem associated with the barrels is finding a recycling company to deal with damaged barrels.

"Gulfstream Construction has gotten a hold of the county and they don't recycle them. If we don't find a recycle program for the barrels they could end up in the landfill," said Barbie.

The expansion project is expected to be completed by December of 2012. The total price tag is $68 million dollars. And yes, that includes the thousands of orange barrels that drivers barrel by on a daily basis.