MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's official: the Backgate overpass is (kind of) open! Drivers have been driving on the southbound lanes of the overpass since earlier this week, and the northbound side of the Highway 17 Bypass overpass is set to open by Tuesday.
On Thursday morning, county officials held a ribbon-cutting for the $120 million project. The Backgate construction is now estimated to finish about $70 million over the original estimated budget of $49.5 million.
SCDOT Horry County Project Engineer Mike Barbee said a big reason for the spike in the project's price tag has to do with the soil that lies beneath the new overpass.
"With Horry County being a coastal county it has a lot of soils that are not found anywhere else in the state," added Barbee. "What we had to do was mechanically go in and reinforce the soils with cement to make sure they could support the bridge loads so that added to the project's costs and it took some time to engineer a solution."
Once the new overpass opens to traffic heading both direction on the 17 Bypass crews will begin putting the finishing touches on the Backgate. The entire project is expected to wrap up sometime in January when crews from the City of Myrtle Beach complete landscaping near the intersection.
Some drivers have argued traffic will still be an issue down the road where Palmetto Pointe Boulevard meets the 17 Bypass just south of the new overpass. Barbee said SCDOT will study the area as a whole and address any issues that arise.
"We're going to take a holistic look at the signals in the area that's going to include Palmetto Pointe and Coalition over here as well," added Barbee. "If there are adjustments or optimizations that we can do we'll do them at that time."