FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A Conservation group is protesting six road widening projects in Florence County. The issue they have is not with the impact on the environment, but with the funding.
The Coastal Conservation League in Charleston believes money should only be used for projects that improve safety or are a state-wide issue. The group feels these widening road projects are not dealing with needed repairs or maintenance, especially issues created during the floods.
Senator Hugh Leatherman refuted this in a press conference Thursday, saying that money from the State Infrastructure Bank should be going towards the six widening road projects. He said back in 2006, Florence County overwhelmingly voted to raise sales tax to meet pressing road needs, and the state agreed to match funds for the six road projects.
Fire officials say the first widening road project off Pine Needles road is making a big difference for them, even two years after its completion. West County Florence Fire Chief, Larue Hendrix says traffic was so bad from being just a two-lane road, and now that it's opened up to four lanes, they’ve noticed it’s easier to get in and out for emergency calls.
Hendrix says, “If there was a wreck on that bridge before, people weren’t going home so we couldn’t get a house fire or anything, so after they did they widening, we can get there quicker and save more lives and that’s that.”
One of the other projects is along Palmetto Street. It is roughly a four-mile stretch of construction right after I-95 going towards Timmonsville. A business owner along the street says the project happening outside his door is needed. His hope is that widening the road will help with traffic, bringing more people to the area.
Jon Windha, who owns Jon’s Automotive, says, “It’s got easy access on and off the interstate and I can [see] potential for it to grow, because we’ve had industry look at business out here and property, so it’s got nowhere to go, but up.”
At the press conference today, Leatherman assured Florence County people the widening road projects will continue.