IOP Connector widening to begin

Traffic streams away from Isle of Palms amid sporadic afternoon showers in June. Buy this photo

Traffic likely will be rolling more smoothly across the Isle of Palms connector next summer.

Charleston County Council’s Finance Committee Thursday unanimously approved a $2.4 million contract with Banks Construction Co. to widen the road. Banks was the only company that met all of the qualifications and bid on the project. The full council will take a final vote on the contract at its meeting Tuesday.

Traffic often backs up on the connector on busy summer weekends as people head to the beaches on the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island. On Memorial Day, some people heading to the beach sat in traffic for more than three hours, prompting the county to put the project on the fast track.

The project as designed will make the connector four lanes in Mount Pleasant from U.S. Highway 17 to just past Riviera Drive; it is two lanes now. It also would make changes to improve traffic flow at the connector intersection with Rifle Range Road.

Richard Turner, a project manager for the county, said the project has a 180-day contract. Work will begin in early November, so it should be complete before Memorial Day weekend. The contract includes financial penalties if the project is late, he said. “We have full confidence they will be successful.”

The project when complete should make a difference on busy holiday weekends, he said. “It’s not a silver bullet, but it certainly will help.”

County Councilman Dickie Schweers, who represents the area, said most area residents are very supportive of the project, especially those on Isle of Palms.

Residents of one nearby neighborhood, however, raised concerns about noise, he said. They asked whether the county would consider putting in place sound barriers, he said. “But I really don’t see that occurring.”

The connector upgrade is part of a package of four projects for which county staff has recommended a different, quicker method of financing. The others are a bike and pedestrian lane on the T. Allen Legare Bridge across the Ashley River, and intersection improvements at the James Island connector and Calhoun Street and at Ashley River Road and Sam Rittenberg Boulevard.

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