Delemar Highway project begins
A safer route to Ashley Ridge High School is finally in sight.
Dorchester County celebrated the kickoff of the Delemar Highway widening project Monday, a project that's expected to be finished by the fall of 2014.
Don Leonard, chairman of the S.C. State Transportation Infrastructure Bank, recounted a 2009 bus trip bank officials took with county representatives to look at the road.
“On that bus we looked at each other and we said, 'We have to make this happen for our children,'” he said.
Of the 96 major projects the bank has funded, he said, “This project for me, personally, ranks near the top.”
At the time of that bus tour, the infrastructure bank didn't have any money. Since then, Leonard said, through management of its bond portfolio it's been able to save taxpayers $177 million and redirect some of that money to new projects.
The project is still in the design phase, with construction expected to begin this fall, and Councilman Larry Hargett said residents will be invited to a public information meeting to give input on the design.
Hargett said the current road is more a pathway than a road, dating as it does to colonial times when it was called “the public road from Parker's Ferry to Bacon's Bridge.” It eventually got the name Delemar from a family that lived in the area, he said.
State Rep. Jenny Horne said the $13 million from the infrastructure bank is part of a larger, $19 million grant, that will also pay for intersection improvements at Butternut and Old Orangeburg roads, Deming Way where it meets U.S. 78, and phase three work on U.S. 78.
She defended the infrastructure bank, which some have wanted to dissolve, saying it's in fact a model for other states.
All who spoke talked of the safety of the road. The road was a concern when the school district bought the property, Superintendent Joe Pye said.
School officials were assured the road would be widened before the school opened, he said, but money dried up before that could happen.
Councilman Jay Byars said the road widening was his No. 1 priority when he was elected to county council in 2010.
As an irresponsible 16-year-old driver himself, he managed to total two cars in less than a week, and “I wasn't even texting at the time,” he said.
Everyone worked together to find money for the road, he said.
After the ceremony, Councilman David Chinnis said he thought the design by Dennis Corp., which won the bid, was the best of the three presented.
The other two widened the road from the middle out, meaning the county would have to deal with about 20 landowners to obtain right of way, but the Dennis design shifted the road to one side so the county has to deal with only two landowners, he said.
One of those landowners is MeadWestvaco, which wants the road widening for its East Edisto project, Chinnis said.
The Delemar Highway project was the source of controversy last year when questions arose about the county's procedures and Davis & Floyd disputed the award to Dennis.
The county stuck with Dennis.