Five years on, Beaufort County finishes U.S. 17 widening, improvements

This is done with on U.S. 17 in Beaufort County, for now anyways.

Five years in the making, the widening of U.S. 17 in Beaufort County is at last done.

But all you Charleston commuters don't rejoice just yet, road work is now creeping up U.S. 17 in Colleton County. Still the widening of what was once one of the most deadly stretches of road in the nation is being lauded as the end of a dark chapter.

The Island Packet has a graphic explaining the new U.S. 17-21 intersection's traffic flow

Here're all the gory details from the press release

On Thursday, February 10, at 3 in the afternoon, Beaufort County Council members, state lawmakers, and representatives from the South Carolina Department of Transportation cut the official red ribbon to celebrate the 8 miles of widening improvements for US 17/ACE Basin Parkway between Gardens Corner and Lightsey Plantation. 

Standing under a tent with a back drop of protected live oaks and the new US 17 bridge over US 21, SCDOT’s Secretary of Transportation, H. B. “Buck” Limehouse, Jr. praised staff along with the Phillips & Jordan and Davis & Floyd Design Build team for delivering the construction project $2 million dollars under budget and without any life threatening accidents. “The widening of US 17 more than delivered on its goals to improve safety while preserving community values and protecting the natural and scenic environment of the ACE Basin,” said Limehouse.

Beaufort County Chairman, Weston Newton, who worked with Councilmember Gerald Dawson and many of the families with that lost love ones in traffic accidents on the stretch of highway, spoke of the project’s importance for northern Beaufort County and its reminder that road projects can be beautiful and safe. “We would not be standing here today without the work of these families, the ACE Basin Task Force, Advocates for Change on Highway 17, Representative Ken Hodges, Representative Robert Brown, Senator Clementa Pinckney, former Senator Catherine Ceips, former Governor Mark Sanford, Beaufort County Taxpayers, SCDOT and the Federal Highway Administration."

Prior to its widening, US 17/ACE Basin Parkway, between Gardens Corner and Lightsey Plantation was a two-lane ditch section with narrow to no outside shoulders and miles of marshland on both sides. Continuing into Jacksonboro, this two-lane portion of US 17 was known as the most dangerous road in the state and the nation. According to SCDOT’s September 2005 Environmental Assessment, 983 crashes occurred between 1997 and 2005 with fatality rates 2.3 times higher than that of the multi-lane portions of US 17 and 1.5 times that of other US Primary routes in South Carolina. Since construction began, there has not been a single fatality on US 17 within this project’s construction zone. 

The completed roadway, primarily in Beaufort County, is now four lanes with two northbound lanes, two southbound lanes, safer shoulders, high visibility street signage, and enhanced drainage. The improved US 17/ACE Basin Parkway includes approximately three miles of roadway with 100 foot wide natural median and two new bridges south of the Combahee River. Big Estate Road has been re-aligned with Jacob White Road and provided a new traffic signal. To accommodate the increase of left turns within the more populated section of roadway between Big Estate Road and Gardens Corner, there is a new center turning lane and intermittent planted medians minimizing the possibility of head-on collisions. A 10 foot wide multi-purpose pathway has also been added along this stretch of roadway. Reworking the Gardens Corner Interchange enables US 17 thru traffic to cross over US 21, while a new traffic circle connects US 17 southbound traffic with US 21 and rows of preserved oak trees line the US 21 ramps with US 17 northbound. 

Clearing and grubbing are underway for the widening of US 17 between Lightsey Plantation and Jacksonboro in Colleton County with an anticipated completion of this segment in the summer 2013.

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