Hundreds of Berkeley County residents attended a meeting in October 2017 where drawings showed the widening of 11 miles of Highway 176 from U.S. Highway 17-A to Volvo Cars Drive.
Now, due to a lack of funding, the project has been scaled back to include just a 4.7-mile stretch of the traffic-choked road, from 17-A to Nexton Parkway.
It's a more immediate need than widening the road to the Volvo Cars plant, officials said.
The $53 million project would include two lanes lanes in each direction separated by a raised concrete island in the middle. The roadway would include an shared use lane that meets a minimum standard for a bike lane, a concern to Jason Crowley, communities and transportation program director with the Coastal Conservation League.
“You have people driving 50-60 miles an hour down the road in tons of traffic,” Crowley said. “You have bikes mixed in with traffic. This design will end up causing fatalities.”
With tens of thousands of people expected to move to the burgeoning area in coming years, Crowley said he would rather the county build a 10-foot sidewalk instead, but project manager Mitchell Metts said the upgrade was too expensive.
Other residents at Tuesday's meeting were concerned about the few opportunities to make left turns from the highway.
“I would have to drive past the shopping center and make a U-turn and come back,” said Sean Banks, who lives in Cane Bay. “That would be very inconvenient for customers. If I owned a business that was affected, I would not be very happy.”
It could be years before the residents have to worry about it anyway.
In April, the county floated an idea to fast-track the project and the widening of Nexton Parkway by borrowing up to $37 million, but that plan is now out of consideration, said County Deputy Supervisor Les Blankenship.
Instead, the county plans to use proceeds from its 1 cent sales tax and any grants it can secure. The design and right-of-way acquisition are funded.
Highway 176 is behind two other high-capacity projects: Clements Ferry Road Phase II and Henry Brown Boulevard. Both of those projects were part of the 2008 sales tax program, but the county ran out of money before they were funded.
In 2014, Berkeley County residents voted to renew the program and add new projects for seven more years.
“We’ve got to see first how much money we get in from the sales tax and then we’ve got to see how much Clements Ferry and Henry Brown cost,” Blankenship said.
Plans call for starting right-of-way acquisition along Highway 176 in early 2019, with construction starting in 2020 and taking up to three years to complete.