Crews to start backgate construction, S.C. 31 extension project

Published: Apr. 20, 2011 at 12:18 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 29, 2011 at 8:23 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – At the backgate in Myrtle Beach crews are almost finished the utility work allowing construction to begin on the interchange project. It's happening at the same time South Carolina Department of Transportation officials get ready to begin the expansion of S.C. 31.

Dirt is moving at both projects, but officials with SCDOT say the actual construction at the backgate should begin within the next few weeks. What drivers have seen up until now was just prep work for the project.

SCDOT spokesman Mike Barbee says the project should begin by mid-late May. He says construction will continue for the next 3.5 years.

Once construction begins drivers can expect even more slowdowns, lane shifts, speed reductions and construction barriers. Barbee says they're all signs drivers should slow down and pay attention.

Crews will have to complete work in stages and at night to accommodate the heavy traffic that goes through the area daily. Barbee says that's why the project is slated to take so long.

No matter how long it takes drivers are anxious to have the project finished and get rid of the traffic mess.

"Come vacation season it's horrendous really. You almost can't get through it at all," said driver Larry Cox.

At S.C. 31, SCDOT is waiting for permits from the Army Corps of Engineers involving wetlands in the area before work can begin.

Right now, they're moving dirt to clear the way for the construction that will eventually extend the highway from Highway 544 to Highway 707. Officials say that project will also take about 3.5 years.

When complete it'll allow people coming from the South an alternate to the bypass.

"About the only way to really go from the south end is up the bypass or up 707 and both those roads are really heavily traveled and in the evenings around 6:00 p.m. they're really congested," said Jim Kiser, whose business sits where the on ramp to 31 will be.

Barbee estimates the cost of the backgate project to top $100 million. He doesn't have cost estimates for the S.C. 31 extension just yet.

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