During a laid-back meeting with local chamber board members on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham emphatically told business leaders he wants to help expedite a Summerville road project that’s been decades in the making.
“We are exceptionally fortunate for his willingness to meet and help us move the Berlin Myers Parkway project forward and finally push this project through the permitting phase so we can begin construction,” said Russ Cornette, town engineer and director of public works.
More than once during the 45-minute meeting at the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce, Graham asked about the roadway project, why it would be beneficial to complete and how he could use his leadership to propel the stalled initiative.
“Find out what I can do to help,” Graham told the board.
For more than a decade, the third leg of the Berlin G. Myers Parkway extension—a stretch of about three miles—has sat in limbo, as the town waits for state approval of certain necessary permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Three-point-two miles ain’t that much; what’s the big hold up?” Graham said.
Cornette explained the grueling process. “I’ve been involved with working with (South Carolina Department of Transportation) and Dorchester County on permitting the…project since 2006,” he said. “Seems like every time we get close…they change the rules.”
Board member Robert Pratt expressed similar frustrations over the project.
“We have been in regulatory hell,” he said.
Once SCDOT gets final approval, and permits are in hand, the construction bidding process can occur and then construction. Town officials estimate a three-year construction timeline.
“You live in a beautiful place down here…but I’ll try to help,” Graham said. “I know it’s been (an) uphill (battle).”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires a special 408 permit for the project to modify the Sawmill Branch Flood Control project, constructed in 1971 to reduce flood risks to surrounding structures due to smaller, frequent flood events, according to Army Corps officials. Altering the flood control channel will be required before actual construction of the roadway.
In 2017, SCDOT learned it had to resubmit the 408 permit. Project officials said once the 408 permit is approved, a 404 permit—required for projects impacting waters in the state—can also be issued.
The parkway’s final leg will extend by about three miles from East Carolina Avenue to the intersection of Highway 17-A, just below Orangeburg Road, and will run roughly parallel with the Sawmill Branch Trail.
“It’ll connect the North Main (Street) area all the way out to the western part of the town that is growing leaps and bounds,” said board member Robby Robbins, also DOT commissioner for SC’s first congressional district. “Everything is moving that direction. You can only take 17-A to get out there now, which runs right through the middle of town.”
All funding for the road project is in place and to date, has totaled about $100 million. The initial cost, in the 1970s when the project was first conceptualized, was about $9 million. The project’s first two phases were completed in the ‘90s.
“Summerville was very fortunate to have Senator Graham visit us this week and share the things he’s working on in D.C. and listen to our local concerns,” Cornette said. Graham told the board he plans to make a phone call next week about the project.