Photo Information Below
By Bob Kudelka
Drive along US 17 in the ACE Basin and right away you know the area is special.
ACE Basin is where the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers converge and
flow past cypress swamps, historic plantation homes, old rice fields
and tidal marshes.
is one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast. Wildlife
in the area includes bald eagles, shortnosed sturgeon, loggerhead
turtles and other threatened or endangered species.
the 9,800-acre Nemours Plantation, operated by the Nemours Wildlife
Foundation, contains a rich diversity of habitats including remnant rice
fields, fresh and brackish water marshes, upland pine and hardwood
forests, bottomland hardwoods, and cypress/tupelo forests. The late
Eugene duPont, III and family founded the Foundation in 1995.
as work begins on the US 17 widening project in this portion of
Beaufort County this summer, SCDOT Project Manager Chris Hernandez said
the uniqueness of the area makes it vital that the natural beauty is
For instance, part of the 6-mile project will include a 100-foot median to preserve “very nice tree canopies,” Hernandez said.
did a tremendous amount of tree surveys because this area has a large
number of significant and specimen oak trees,” Hernandez said. “We made a
commitment to save as many of those as possible.”
the route, engineers will be installing several guardrails and possibly
tree wells, which stabilize trees and protect their root structure.
paved jogging, walking and bike path will meander around preserved
trees to provide a quality of life benefit for area residents. The path
will allow enjoyment of the scenic area.
fencing, which was already being installed on a hot morning in August,
will protect the area marshland by providing erosion control, Hernandez
allow animals to continue to migrate through the wetlands, two 100-foot
flat slab bridges will be erected. These “critter crossings” will be
used by snakes, deer, armadillos and alligators, he said.
“It will allow them to either swim or get to land and be able to walk,” Hernandez said.
long awaited US 17 widening project is designed to improve safety for a
stretch of highway from Gardens Corner to the Combahee River. The
project became a priority for the SCDOT Commission after a series of
Newton, Chairman of Beaufort County Council and the Beaufort Country
Transportation Advisory Group said the widening of a deadly 6-mile
stretch of US 17 has been a priority for Beaufort County for some time.
“Without the friendly cooperation of our partners at SCDOT, this project would still be in the discussion stage,” Newton said.
behalf of Beaufort County Council and the Beaufort County
Transportation Advisory Group, I would like to express my heartfelt
appreciation to S.C. Secretary of Transportation, H.B. “Buck” Limehouse,
Jr. and the highway professionals at DOT for their commitment and for
the spirit of teamwork they have demonstrated in our joint effort to
provide safe roadways and to save lives in the Lowcountry,” Newton said.
Wilson Elgin was SCDOT’s project manager during the development of the environmental documents and permitting.
Elgin also spent time with some of the family members of crash victims, so it’s especially satisfying for him to see work beginning.
“I think it’s a worthwhile project because it addresses safety as well as the environmental concerns,” Elgin said.
stretch of US 17 had twice the fatality rate of portions of US 17 that
were multi-lane divided highway and 1.5 the number of fatalities than
other primary routes in South Carolina, Elgin said.
agency coordination team included several state and federal agencies,
such as the Environmental Protection Agency, US Geological Survey, US
Fish and Wildlife, US Department of Defense, and a local presence such
as the ACE Basin Task Force.
15 agencies met on a regular basis throughout the development of the EA
(Environmental Assessment) and the permitting process,” Elgin said.
of the widening will be to four lanes with a divided median. Other
areas will have five lanes with the multipurpose path adjacent to the
The project is design/build to speed construction time. The project is to be completed in 2010.
Hernandez said the cooperation on state and local levels has been excellent.
response we’ve gotten from the community and Beaufort County and the
City has been very good,” Hernandez said. “Everybody’s excited and ready
to get it under way. Everything’s been positive.”
on-site office was set up in Green Pond to house Hernandez and staff s
from the various contractors including: HDR, project management;
Phillips & Jordan, Inc., project and construction management
contractor; Davis & Floyd, Inc., roadway and bridge design
construction, construction engineering and utility coordinating, and
surveying; S&ME, geotechnical engineering, quality
control/assurance; Chao & Associates, bridge peer reviews; PAN,
Inc., right of way; Sprague & Sprague Consulting Engineers, Inc.,
signage, pavement markings, signalization and ITS design; Banks
Construction, paving; Cape Romain Contractors, bridge construction;
Buffington & Smith Contracting Co., cement stabilize base.
Bob Kudelka is Assistant Director of Communications with the South Carolina Department of Transportation.
Project manager Chris Hernandez checks a survey stake at the future
site of the paved pedestrian and bike path along the US 17 route being
widened in Beaufort County. (SCDOT Photo by Rob Thompson)
began in August on the widening of US 17 in Beaufort County. The
project will improve safety while preserving the environment. (SCDOT
Photo by Rob Thompson)
SCDOT Project manager Chris Hernandez checks a survey stake at the
future site of the paved pedestrian and bike path along the US 17 route
being widened in Beaufort County. (SCDOT Photo by Rob Thompson)