U.S. Highway 17 getting bike lanes near Awendaw

The stretch of U.S. Highway 17 from Mount Pleasant to Awendaw has had some of the narrowest shoulders, but that is changing as repaving work progresses. The work should end by October.

AWENDAW — Biking between this town and Mount Pleasant will soon be a little safer as repaving work on U.S. Highway 17 has expanded to include new 4-foot-wide shoulders for cyclists.

The change was made after Matthew Moldenhauer of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission noticed the construction work on Aug. 8 and began asking if bike lanes would be possible.

Moldenhauer, a land resource manager, is working on the agency’s plan to connect its many county parks by bike and pedestrian routes — a draft of which is set to be finished next month.

Banks Construction is resurfacing U.S. 17 and four other roads, and the S.C. Department of Transportation agreed to alter its contract to widen the highway’s shoulder from 3 feet to 4 feet, said Tim Henderson, district construction engineer.

Henderson gave the credit to Moldenhauer and other bike advocates who requested the change.

“They asked if we could make it happen, and we were able to stretch the budget on it to make it happen,” Henderson said. “It’s not always going to be that easy.”

The change will make it easier for cyclists in Mount Pleasant to reach the Francis Marion National Forest — there are no quieter parallel roads between Darrell Creek Trail and Sewee Road.

The wider lanes will appear on the highway between Darrell Creek to just north of Guerins Bridge Road — a section that has had some of the slimmest shoulders.

“A wide shoulder is the difference between someone being able to ride out there or drive out there,” Moldenhauer said, adding that the U.S. 17 route was ranked No. 10 by more than 3,000 respondents to a recent survey of desired bike route improvements.

The change added about $80,000 to the price tag, “and we were able to stretch the budget to make it happen,” Henderson said. The northbound shoulder already has been widened. Henderson said the southbound shoulder should be done by next month.

A rumble strip will be installed between the shoulder and traffic lanes to warn motorists who veer out of the lane.

Moldenhauer said it was unfortunate that the bike lane along U.S. 17 wasn’t part of the plan from the start, “but it’s also promising that the DOT was so receptive to comment. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.