From WMBF News partner MyHorryNews.com:
International Drive will not be open until at least June, Horry County officials said Wednesday.
The 5.6-mile road project, which is more than 10 years in the making, was scheduled to be completed by the end of March. The contractor, Southern Asphalt, asked county officials for additional days to make up for inclement weather and the county pushed the deadline back. The county agreed that most of construction should be finished by April 29.
"They're making good progress, however, it's still probably going to be June before they get it open," said David Schwerd, the county's deputy director of planning and zoning, who drove down the road Wednesday. "That's just the way it is."
Speaking to the Carolina Forest Civic Association, Schwerd said the contractor still has to finish the curbing and gutter work as well as install some drainage outlets.
When asked if Southern Asphalt would be penalized for the delays, Schwerd said the company's contract runs through May 6. After that date, the business has 30 days to finish the "punch list" of items, such as the curbing and drainage infrastructure.
"Anything after that, he's going to have to pay," Schwerd said.
County councilman Dennis DiSabato, who represents a large swath of the Carolina Forest area, said he didn't learn about the additional delays with International Drive until Tuesday night.
"I thought it was going to be the beginning of May," he said of the road opening.
Horry voters approved the project in a 2006 sales tax referendum, but the road work faced numerous delays.
International Drive ranked No. 13 out of the 15 projects on the priority list. When there were hold-ups with other projects higher on the list, such as Carolina Bays Parkway and S.C. 707, those slowdowns caused further delays for International.
There were also environmental concerns raised about the area's Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve, which is home to black bears, the red cockaded woodpecker and other wildlife.
Construction was supposed to finally begin in 2015, but conservation groups challenged the project in court. The legal fight, which was waged in state and federal courts, was resolved in April when the environmentalists agreed to drop their lawsuits.
The dismissal cleared the way for county officials to wrap up construction. County leaders initially hoped the project would be finished by the fall, but they later accepted that it would take until the spring.
They have also blamed the delays on the skyrocketing costs associated with the project, which is now projected to cost $25.5 million.
Despite the latest delays, Schwerd said the first annual International Drive Road Race, which is scheduled for April 29, will not be affected by the later opening date.