Johnnie Dodds after dark: Progress and patience

By Jon

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- During the day it's a seemingly unending labyrinth of orange traffic cones and construction.

But did you know most of the work being done to widen Johnnie Dodds Boulevard happens while you're sleeping?

The work zone measures less than a three mile stretch of road, but for many of the thousands of people who pass through Mount Pleasant everyday, work to widen Highway 17 is stretching their patience thin.

"It's maddening," Kenneth Slifer said,{} "Coming across the bridge, it used to take five minutes to get to the office. Now, it takes 15."

And he isn't alone, Lacy Barr understands the need for the work, but admits getting to work is getting much more difficult.

"It will be nice when all the construction is over," she said.

It has been nearly a year now since the project began -- an ambitious undertaking to revamp the town's antiquated infrastructure with new lanes, improved drainage and sidewalks, and the capacity to handle the growing town's traffic needs.

But construction has left Mount Pleasant with a constantly changing maze of signals, signs, barrels and gridlock.

"Johnnie Dodds Boulevard is our marquee project and is by far the busiest road that we have in the transportation sales tax program and we are moving along quite well," Steve Thigpen, Chief Program Director for Charleston County Project Development said.

As of November, the widening project is on time and on budget.

But progress comes with plenty of sacrifices, including lengthy delays and nighttime lane closures.

"Most of the work that we are doing now is paving," Thigpen said.{} "A lot of people go home in the afternoon and come back, you see brand-new asphalt."

Each night at 9 p.m. one lane is shut down to allow crews to resurface the roadway using giant cranes, backhoes and paving machines - by state law, all lanes must be reopened at 6 a.m.

"We are used to this kind of work, we get to a point where we learn to set up this work and set up these traffic control zones to best benefit us," said Thigpen.{}

Keeping those delays to a minimum is priority number one for Mount Pleasant Town Administrator Eric Demoura.{}

"We realize that the construction that is on going presents some problems for residents and visitors and businesses alike, and we wanted to do everything we possibly could to help out as much as we possibly could," he said.

"The focal point of the Johnnie Dodds expansion project will be a new bridge being built at the intersection of Bowman Road and Highway 17.{}

Later this month, several exposed metal cylinders will be filled with concrete to make way for several steal beams connecting both sides of that bridge.

The new overpass, is designed to eliminate backups at this busy intersection and beyond to Interstate 526.

"Traffic will move much more freely than it does today. When we surveyed residents, businesses, and visitors sometime back, traffic was the number one concern that people had," Demora said.

It's a concern town and county leaders, area businesses and drivers hope will be left in the dust.

The $58 million project is being paid for with the countywide transportation sales tax.

The project is expected to be completed by spring of 2013.

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