Wal-Mart Market coming to congested Dorchester-Bacons Bridge intersection

The area's first Wal-Mart Market is planned for the only vacant corner at Dorchester and Bacons Bridge roads, where three years of road construction will soon stretch into four.

Wal-Mart Market stores, which at an average of 40,000 square feet are a quarter the size of a typical Wal-Mart Supercenter, were launched in 1998 in smaller Southern communities and include groceries and a pharmacy.

"There will be some other shops there but Wal-Mart is the big anchor," said Dorchester County Councilman Larry Hargett. "It will probably be happening within the next year. (County councilmen) all know about it and are very much in favor of it."

A gas station is also planned for the site, which is being developed by AvTex, said Dorchester County Planning and Zoning Director Alex Brebner. He said the property is already zoned for commercial development, so it does not need approval from County Council.

Across the street from the shopping center, the existing Sunoco station plans to expand its footprint by buying some adjoining land, officials said.

The intersection where the Wal-Mart Market and the gas station would be built has been a bottleneck for years as growth in Dorchester County outpaced the two-lane road's ability to handle the increased traffic. The widening of Dorchester Road is nearing completion, but the widening of Bacons Bridge Road has hit delays. The projects are funded by a 1 percent sales tax.

"Right now, the focus is getting the intersection completed," said Donnie Dukes of project engineer Davis & Floyd. That involves some drainage work, paving and lane shifts, he said.

About 16,500 cars pass through the intersection each day, according to the South Carolina Department of Transportation's 2012 traffic counts.

In May, Dukes predicted that the Dorchester Road project would be done by the end of July. Near-daily rainstorms have caused additional delays, even as some lanes along the five-mile project from U.S. Highway 17-A to Trolley Road have opened.

"People are realizing they get some benefit out of these lanes that are open but you've still got the bottleneck at the intersection," Dukes said. The road widening started in June 2011, but the $24 million project was plagued by bad weather, delays in relocating utility poles and faulty materials that caused contractors to tear up and relay the gravel bed. It is now more than eight months behind schedule.

In May, frustrated by the lack of progress, Dorchester County Council members started requiring weekly updates from Davis & Floyd at the website dorchesterroadstax.org.

As County Councilman Jay Byars said at the time on his public Facebook page: "Our patience has run out on Dorchester Road."

Since then, "We've been working diligently to get it finished up," Dukes said.

Recent work has included the noise wall in front of Ashborough East, shoulder grading and road marking.

As work on Dorchester Road winds down, 3.6 miles of Bacon's Bridge Road from near the Highway 61 intersection toward Summerville has hit snags. The projected completion date is September 2015.

"Due to utility issues, that project will probably be several months late as well," Dukes said. "We know there have been some delays in the contractor's schedule. We are hoping to make up that lost time as we move on down the road, but we haven't determined if that can happen or not. Everybody's making every effort to make up lost time."

Dukes said the commercial development at the intersection should not add to the traffic problems.

"The turn lanes and all that are based on 30-year projections," he said. "We're not going to do this and five years from now say, 'We should have thought about that Wal-Mart.' That's not going to happen. In fact, (the development) is good news. We run on one cent sales tax, so the more businesses, the better for us."

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.