The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) announced July 9 it will begin construction in September on 14.75 miles of Highway 61 in Dorchester County to improve the road’s safety and quality. SCDOT expects the construction’s first phase, a scenic portion of the highway near the Charleston County line, to be completed by December 2020. Motorists can expect periodic delays and lane closures during the construction.
“Our refined design for Highway 61’s improvements preserves the corridor’s live oak trees that are hundreds of years old and improves citizens’ safety as they drive along the scenic route,” said Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall. “Based on a detailed analysis of seven years of crash data and significant input from the community, we were able to work with Governor Henry McMaster and other stakeholders to alter our plans to maintain the area’s historic beauty while fulfilling our commitment to make our roads safer.”
Construction will begin first on the scenic 6.5-mile portion of Highway 61 from the intersection of Highway 165 to the Charleston County line. Improvements will include a new road bed and pavement, two 11-foot wide lanes with three-foot paved shoulders, safety rumble strips on the centerline and edge lines, higher-visibility paint and reflectors, and warning signs at curves.
Another 8.25-mile section of the highway from the Colleton County line to the intersection of US Highway 17-A will be repaved, receive new four-foot shoulders and rumble strips, and better paint and reflectors will be added. Construction for this section will begin after the first section is completed.
The project’s total cost of $7.8 million includes incentives for the contractor, Banks Construction who was awarded the competitive bid, to complete construction of the first phase on time.
The improvements to Highway 61 are part of SCDOT’s Rural Road Safety Program made possible by the state gas tax increase enacted in July 2017. The increase is funding the agency’s 10-Year Plan to improve the quality of the state’s roads and bridges after 30 years of underfunded maintenance. The plan’s goals are to improve the safety of our rural roads, resurface our most traveled and aging corridors, repair or replace deteriorating bridges, and widen key portions of our interstates.
“Nearly 30 percent of fatal and serious-injury crashes in South Carolina’s rural areas occur on five percent of our roads, which is why our work to improve the safety of rural roads is a priority focus,” said SCDOT Commissioner Robby Robbins. “The Highway 61 project shows we can accomplish our safety goals with a multifaceted approach while being sensitive to additional needs of communities.”
SCDOT has already reduced the speed limit to 45 mph on Highway 61 from the Charleston County line to Highway 165, and law enforcement has increased its patrols of the corridor. These measures were implemented after a 2019 public meeting on the project’s plans and 450 comments that were received from the public.