New bridge opens on Pine Needles Road

Florence, SC - FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A new bridge spanning across Interstate 95 on Pine Needles Road in Florence has opened, paving the way for demolition of the old bridge to begin.

South Carolina Department of Transportation officials said work is moving along on the widening of the road, which would include four lanes and a center turn lane. The road project was approved in November 2007 by voters and is funded through a penny sales tax in Florence County.

Even though the opening of the bridge is coming as good news to area drivers, businesses along Pine Needles Road claim foot traffic through their stores has decreased. Business owners said people don't think the shops are open or don't want to deal with the hassle of getting on and off the road.

"[We have] been getting a lot of phone calls asking if [we're] open during construction," Susan Deas of The Cleanery said. "Actually, people come up and say, 'How do I get out of here now?'"

It's also a problem for the West Florence Fire Department. Officials said when crews are paving, emergency responders have to deal with single lanes of traffic. Getting out of their headquarters can be challenging, as well.

"Trying to get out at all is a real big hazard," Capt. James Cox said.  "We're trying to get where we're going. They're trying to get where they're going and everybody's in a hurry."

Cox says it will get easier for them to get to emergencies when the road is expanded to five lanes.

SCDOT officials said the project won't be completed until October 2011.

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