SUMMERVILLE -- A sheriff's deputy might return soon to the rush-hour-traffic-swarmed intersection of Cooks Crossroads -- and the bigger fix is on the way.
The State Infrastructure Bank on Thursday awarded Dorchester County $13 million to widen S.C. Highway 165 from the crossroads to Ashley Ridge High School. The award means that work might be able to be completed roughly at the same time as widening S.C. 165 from Trolley Road in Summerville to the crossroads. The entire 6-mile stretch could be finished by late 2013.
"Obviously this is an important part of making that roadway safer," said state Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville.
Meanwhile, widening the crossroads and installing traffic lights will be done first when construction starts on the Bacon's Bridge Road end of the project, said Donnie Dukes of Davis and Floyd, the engineering firm managing the project. That construction could begin by early summer.
The infrastructure bank also awarded $6 million for the next phase of U.S. 78 widening and intersection improvements elsewhere in Dorchester County.
Cooks Crossroads is a four-way stop sign where rush-hour traffic on two-lane roads converges. S.C. 165 is called Bacon's Bridge Road until it reaches the crossroads and then Delemar Highway afterward. Ashley River Road, or S.C. 61, becomes Beech Hill Road at the intersection.
Cars and buses jam up at the stop signs while going back and forth from the busy Oakbrook suburb, the expansive Legend Oaks subdivision, from Beech Hill Elementary School and the newly built high school. From the intersection, the lines of traffic backs so far at times that the end can't be seen. There have been more than 30 wrecks in three years.
The local state legislative delegation, Dorchester County Council and Dorchester District 2 officials have pressed for the $13 million and to step up the intersection work. The district also had considered going to voter referendum for funding to pay for a temporary three-lane widening from the intersection to Ashley Ridge.
The Sheriff's Office and school district are reviewing how effective the one-month trial has been placing a deputy at the intersection to direct the morning rush hour. Schools officials say they will pay the $25-per-hour cost until the end of the year if a deputy seems warranted.
The Sheriff's Office posted the deputy at the beginning of the spring term. Motorists' reaction have been mixed whether it helped. There also has been concern for the deputy's safety. Sheriff's Maj. John Garrison said the risks were too great to have a deputy there permanently.
But at least one driver would love to see an officer in uniform back at Cooks Crossroads.
"That intersection is a nightmare for about an hour each morning without him," Ginny Cook said.
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or follow him on Twitter at @bopete.