Mount Pleasant road construction causes wear and tear on cars, some drivers say
Sometimes the ride can get a little rough as tri-county roads undergo more than $1 billion in improvements.
Mount Pleasant resident Carole Aikman said uneven pavement on southbound U.S. Highway 17 near Six Mile Road blew out a front shock absorber on her Jaguar.
“It truly knocked the wind out of me,” she said. “I was just really shook up.”
Aikman said she has tried since January to get the town or its road-building contractors to pay $550 for the damage.
All have denied responsibility, she said.
“I just really want some restitution. It’s been bothering me for a long time,” she said.
At the time of the incident, one section of the pavement was three inches higher than the rest, which caused the jarring drive, she said.
“I can’t possibly be the only one with a claim,” she said.
The town’s $29 million project to widen U.S. 17 from the Isle of Palms connector north to Darrell Creek Trail is scheduled for completion in November.
Aikman said she contacted Gulfstream Construction and Banks Construction about her complaint. Both companies have told her they will not pay her claim, she said.
Banks Construction has been working on Johnnie Dodds Boulevard since January 2011 and U.S. 17 since April 2011, said Billy Grayson, the company’s safety director.
Grayson said a thorough investigation of Aikman’s claim concluded that there was no evidence of liability on the part of the construction company.
Gulfstream did not provide comment Thursday.
Banks and Gulfstream are contractors on the Johnnie Dodds and U.S. 17 projects, which extend from the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to Darrell Creek Trail.
“An estimated 24 million vehicles have driven through our projects. To date, we have had very few claims on both projects,” Grayson said. “We continue to work diligently for safe travel through this very important corridor.”
Scott Moore said two tires blew out on his BMW because of uneven pavement crossing U.S. 17 on Anna Knapp Boulevard. “It was basically like hitting a curb,” he said.
At the intersection, the highway was higher than the boulevard, he said.
He said he gave up trying to get compensated for the tires.
People who believe their cars have been damaged because of construction may call 388-6243 to be directed to the correct contractor.
“The contractor will investigate the claim and refer them to their insurance company, if necessary,” said Tracey Amick, county spokeswoman.
A wider Johnnie Dodds is being built from the Ravenel bridge to Interstate 526 in a $68 million Charleston County RoadWise project. It is due to be finished in December.
Ed Barbee, Mount Pleasant road construction spokesman, said the town is not liable for claims related to its U.S. 17 road widening. Instead, the contractors and subcontractors bear responsibility, he said.
Barbee said he has talked with Aikman and explained the situation to her.
“Things like this are going to happen. Sometimes they get blamed for everything that’s on the road. What they ask for is proof,” he said.
Barbee said he has fielded about 25 calls from people who think the town-funded U.S. 17 road widening has damaged their vehicle. He said the calls come in at a rate of about one every two weeks. The claims include reports from drivers that a rock cracked a windshield or paint got on a car while driving through road construction. One woman said she got tar inside her car when she drove with her windows down, he said.
“You get a variety. Anything you can think of I’ve heard,” he said.
Barbee said he is sensitive to the issue because his windshield was hit by a brick that flew off a truck on Interstate 26 in Charleston. “It scared me,” he said.
Up to 30 people show up daily at Gerald’s Tires & Brakes on U.S. 17 in Mount Pleasant with tires that need repairs because of something encountered in the road. “A lot of nails, bolts and potholes,” said Mark Spires, a Gerald’s tire tech.
Spires said he couldn’t say for sure where or how the damage happens.
Matt Nevala, manager of the Firestone store on U.S. 17 in Mount Pleasant, said he sees about one customer a month who says road construction damaged tires or wheels.
The Charleston County RoadWise program, funded by a half-cent sales tax, has a variety of other projects ongoing outside of Mount Pleasant, including the widening of Bees Ferry Road. RoadWise is a $1.3 billion effort approved by voters in 2004.
Berkeley and Dorchester counties have a penny sales tax for road construction. Berkeley will collect $122 million over seven years for roads, while in Dorchester more than $100 million will be generated for highways.