Mount Pleasant may pursue portion of Coleman Boulevard road work, delay roundabout plan

MOUNT PLEASANT — Faced with budget-busting bids for road and drainage work on Coleman Boulevard, the town may break the project into more affordable pieces while delaying controversial plans to construct a roundabout at the intersection of Chuck Dawley Boulevard.

With the tab for road projects rising, the town also plans to take another look at transportation impact fees that developers must pay. A previous proposal to raise those fees by 33 percent was narrowly rejected by Town Council in 2011.

Developers now pay a $958 transportation impact fee for each single-family home constructed, for example. But faced with estimates such as more than $100 million to widen less than 5 miles of S.C. Highway 41, the town has been struggling to keep up with road projects to handle population growth.

The Coleman Boulevard project was originally aimed at improving drainage and traffic on the busy thoroughfare from Mill Street, near the east side of Shem Creek, through the intersection where Coleman, Ben Sawyer and Chuck Dawley boulevards meet. Plans to convert that intersection to a multi-lane roundabout have both vocal supporters and opponents on council.

The town expected the work to cost about $11.4 million, but the lowest bid for the work was $19.1 million. That’s in addition to $3.6 million in expected water utility work.

According to town Director of Transportation Brad Morrison, the main factor driving high road construction bids is local market conditions — there’s huge demand for road work, both from governments and from developers.

“I can tell you that Volvo is pulling in huge numbers of contractors,” said Councilman Paul Gawrych, who co-owns Asphalt Concepts LLC.

Town Council will consider doing one or two phases of the Coleman project, to stay within the budget, while delaying work on the intersection, which would be the third and final phase. That was the recommendation of the town’s Transportation Committee on Tuesday on a 2-1 vote, with Gawrych and Mayor Linda Page in favor and Councilman Will Haynie opposed. The full council will take up the issue next week.

“It’s a lot to absorb,” Haynie said. “I’m not ready to vote and say that’s what we need to do.”

Morrison said improvements could be made from Mill Street to Fairmont Avenue, just east of Moultrie Middle School, for just over $10 million based on the recent bids. A second phase of work would extend to Pherigo Street, just east of The Boulevard apartments, while potentially staying within the budget.

Plans include drainage improvements, a planted median, bikes lanes, sidewalk improvements, improved traffic signals and lighted street signs. There is $2.5 million in state and federal funding for the work, and breaking the original project into phases means the town wouldn’t have to revisit the federal approval process, Morrison said.

“I’m ready to move forward with a phased approach,” said Page.

The committee also voted unanimously to have town staff review impact fees and collection practices.

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552 or twitter.com/DSladeNews.