Project comparison: Dorchester Road & Ladson Road

The Dorchester Road and recent Ladson Road projects widened similar lengths of two-lane road to four lanes. The Ladson Road project met with so many problems and delays that officials are promising that the Dorchester Road work will be “no Ladson Road.”

Here’s how the projects break down:

Dorchester Road

Start: June 2011.

Original estimated completion: November 2013.

Problems: Rain, slow relocation of utilities, poor roadbed installation.

Revised completion: March 30, 2014.

Distance: 5 miles.

Early cost estimate: $24 million.

Estimated final cost: $24 million.

Ladson Road

Start: December 2000.

Original estimated completion: November 2003.

Problems: Wetlands, rain, contractor difficulties (first contractor was fired).

Completion: October 2004.

Distance: 4.6 miles.

Early cost estimate: $16.3 million.

Final cost: $21 million.

Source: The Post and Courier archives, Davis and Floyd.

SUMMERVILLE — March 30 is the new completion date for the beleaguered Dorchester Road widening. That’s four months later than the original date but actually well ahead of completion times for similarly delayed road widenings around this traffic-snarled town and region.

Of course, few would believe it, at least among the thousands each day who are bounced and jarred while driving through the bumpy construction site.

“It’s terrible. You can’t get anything done,” said Pansy Ramsey, who moved from her home along the 5-mile stretch partly because of the construction and hasn’t been able to sell the place. She doesn’t think the crews will even meet the new deadline.

“They haven’t done it so far, so why should they try? It’ll be November next year the way they’re going,” she said.

Frustrations fume as drivers creep bumper to bumper among the orange cones along Dorchester Road, cones that should have been removed by November. The backups and the mess recall the U.S. Highway 17 widening in Mount Pleasant and any number of other projects along increasingly busy Lowcountry roads. Some of these relatively narrow roads were built as quiet country routes well before the population boom of recent years, and transportation managers now scramble to catch up.

Dorchester Road, one of the few major arteries between Charleston and its popular northern suburbs, is now overrun by commuters in the densely developing area around the Oakbrook, Knightsville and Beech Hill communities.

The project, widening the two-lane roadway to four lanes, has seemed to be snakebit. It was delayed at first by relentless spring rains, then by difficulties getting utility poles relocated and now by a poorly laid roadbed that has to be dug up and reset.

And that list doesn’t even include a rash of heavy equipment thefts in the early going and workers recently digging up an unknown grave in the road right of way outside Salters Cemetery — troubles that didn’t slow the roadwork.

There’s also a legal dispute between L&L Contractors and Davis & Floyd, the road architects, over which company should pay the $1 million in extra cost for the roadbed rework. The dispute isn’t expected to affect the work or cost the taxpayers more, said Dorchester County Councilman Jay Byars, whose district includes the project area. A bonding company would pay to finish the work.

But the trouble hasn’t done anything to soothe commuters.

“I think it’s a real black eye. Who approved that (roadbed)?” said Kathryn Petty, who lives in nearby Legend Oaks. “It’s horrible. Going up and down those bumps eventually is going to damage cars.”

Officials have repeatedly promised Dorchester Road will be “no Ladson Road,” referring to the debacle of that connected road’s widening in the early 2000s. At least so far, it’s coming along years quicker than that project and months quicker than the Trolley Road widening in the late 1990s — both of which hit similar delays.

Dorchester Road “is a headache, but it’s not nearly as bad,” Byars said. “The biggest things are that they are moving along, there is light at the end of the tunnel and in no way is (the roadbed problem) to the detriment of the taxpayer.”

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