MOUNT PLEASANT — Interstate 526 between Long Point Road and Chuck Dawley Boulevard now rides like a plush black carpet instead of the pockmarked, rutted road it used to be.
The improvements are due to the $6.8 million re-surfacing of the road that is drawing to a close.
Asphalt on the two-mile stretch of highway was 20 years old, said Rickie Green, resident construction engineer for the state Department of Transportation.
The project that smoothed-out the troubled surface of the road is due for completion May 31. What remains is for crews from Banks Construction to re-surface ramps and road shoulders. Center-line reflectors will be installed as well as thermal plastic on the highway lines, Green said.
The road was re-surfaced with a technology known as “open-graded friction course,” a thin, permeable asphalt mix that increases pavement friction, particularly in wet weather. It is extremely permeable, allowing water to drain into and away from the surface quickly, which reduces splash from vehicles, improves driver visibility and reduces headlight glare, officials said.
The same sort of surface was put down in west Ashley at the other end of I-526 between U.S. 17 and International Boulevard, Green said. The rest of I-526 is a non-asphalt concrete surface, he said.
Former Mayor Pro-Tem Paul Gawrych said the work in Mount Pleasant was critical to the health of the asphalt section of the highway.
“It was about to get to the point of no return with damages,” said Gawrych, owner of Asphalt Concepts LLC.
The section of I-526 between Long Point Road and Chuck Dawley Boulevard is heavily traveled by commuters. Truckers leaving the State Ports Authority Wando terminal bound for U.S. 17 in Mount Pleasant also use the road.
In addition to the re-surfacing work, officials are inspecting the structural health of two I-526 spans — the James B. Edwards Bridge over the Wando River and the Don Holt Bridge over the Cooper River. So far, no problems have been found with either of the structures, said James Law, a spokesman for the DOT.