MOUNT PLEASANT — Johnnie Dodds Boulevard now rises over Bowman Road at one of the busiest intersections in town, an engineering feat that represents a major step toward the goal of easing traffic snarls.
“The opening of this flyover will alleviate the rush-hour congestion that has existed for years at Johnnie Dodds and Bowman roads. It is a great milestone for this project,” said Mayor Billy Swails.
Johnnie Dodds traffic will be allowed on the Bowman overpass for the first time by 9 a.m. Sunday, perhaps a bit earlier. However, at midnight Monday, Bowman will close for five months where it crosses Shem Creek so that crews can build a new 30-yard-long bridge there, Charleston County officials said Friday.
The work is part of a $68 million effort to make boulevard traffic flow more smoothly for three miles starting at the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The town population has more than doubled to 66,000 in the past 25 years. Near the bridge, the boulevard has 50,000 vehicles daily. It’s not unusual for afternoon rush-hour cars to back up onto the span.
The project will include a diamond-shaped interchange at Johnnie Dodds and Bowman with three southbound lanes and two northbound lanes. Bowman will be widened to five lanes from Johnnie Dodds to Shem Creek.
“The team has worked hard to make it to this stage in the project after only eight months,” said County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor.
Public reaction to news of the upcoming Bowman Road closure was mixed.
“It will probably make it a whole lot harder for clients to come here,” said Lauren Lee, an agent at a Nationwide Insurance agency on Bowman.
Three “huge” trees have been lost on the property because of right of way needed to widen Bowman, she said. Despite the inconvenience, she predicted the road work would improve things.
“It’s going to be difficult for the small businesses on Bowman. I just hope it doesn’t keep people away,” said Allison Rhoden, owner of Kiln’ Time, a pottery studio.
“In the long run, it’s going to make things better,” she said.
She worried that potential customers will think they can’t get to her studio because of the road work. ”We’re still here and we need support,” she said.
Desiree Pilkington of Sun Station Tanning Studios on Johnnie Dodds was looking forward to completion of the project. “I’m just ready for the construction to be done,” she said.
Brian O’Shea, general manager at Stuckey Furniture, said the situation is a double-edged sword because traffic will flow more smoothly on Johnnie Dodds, but Bowman will be shut near the creek.
“It’s a cost of progress. It will make a big difference to everybody,” he said.
Laura Gardner of Wakendaw Lakes said the Bowman closing would cause problems.
“That’s going to be a mess and it’s messing up all our tires,” she said.
The project is planned for completion in the spring of 2013. Three miles of the heavily traveled and congested boulevard are being widened from four lanes to six.
Charleston County voters approved financing for the road work more than six years ago.
Curbs and gutters will be built, and frontage roads will be widened for bike lanes and sidewalks.