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Construction to widen a portion of U.S. 17 is expected to begin in two weeks, a SCDOT official said this week.
An $80 million contract with Tennessee-based Phillips and Jordan covers the design and widening of six miles of the highway from Gardens Corner in northern Beaufort County to the Colleton-Beaufort county line at the Harriet Tubman Bridge over the Combahee River. The road will go from one lane to two in each direction.
Construction signs for the widening are expected to go up next week, and workers will begin hauling material to the site the following week, said James Law, a South Carolina Department of Transportation spokesman.
The contractor has three years to complete the project, though a more precise timeline is expected as construction gets under way, Law said.
For more than a decade, officials have sought to widen the Beaufort stretch of the road and 16 more miles leading to Jacksonboro in Colleton County to improve its safety. A push in 1992 fizzled due to environmental concerns.
The state renewed plans for the widening after a March 2004 Navy bus accident near Big Estate Road that killed three sailors. State officials struggled to fund the project amid stagnant DOT funding and rising construction costs.
Widening the state-maintained road will be paid for through a combination of federal, state and county money.
David Gasque, a Beaufort man who has lobbied for the widening since his son, David "Cooper" Gasque Jr., died in a collision on the road in January 2004, said the full 22-mile project could have been paid for in 1992 -- when it was first permitted -- at a fraction of what it costs today.
"I'm just glad to see it happening. It's got to start somewhere," Gasque said. "Now we've just got to concentrate our efforts on getting the rest of it done down to Jacksonboro."