Maybank project irks motorists

The resurfacing project along Maybank Highway has created rough conditions on the road for motorists. Banks Construction says the weather has been too chilly and rainy to complete the repaving work.

More than 25,000 motorists do their own kind of bump and grind each day on a nearly two-mile-long section of Maybank Highway that was torn up for resurfacing a month ago.

Some of them complain about tire damage, out-of-whack wheel alignment and chipped paint or cracked windshields from loose rock tossed up by passing vehicles on the James Island section of the highway.

Alan Ezell is one of those complaining. He says ruts knocked his classic 1950 Plymouth out of alignment, flying stones nicked his wife's Mercedes and his patience is wearing thin from the inconvenience.

Ezell, who lives on Johns Island, drives some portion of the road every day and thinks the work crews ripped up the surface and then did next to nothing. He wonders why it's taking so long.

Brian Jones, project manager for Banks Construction, which is doing the $2.6 million job for the state Department of Transportation, blames the weather. He said the company has worked as hard as it can but can't put the asphalt down in the rain or when the temperature gets too low. The company also has to work at night to reduce the impact on the heavily traveled road, and night is when the temperature has dropped all too often toward freezing.

Ezell doesn't buy that explanation. He questions why the state even allowed the work to be done in January and February. All they'd have to do is look at an almanac and know this is the coldest, rainiest time of the year, he says. He's the operator of E.Z. Lawn and Irrigation and says the Highway Department should know, as he does, that the weather doesn't cooperate during these months.

Tim Henderson, district construction engineer for the Transportation Department, says Banks Construction, which is based in North Charleston, normally can do this type of work in January and February but hadn't counted on the excessive rain and cold.

Wet January and February days have left the area saturated with rainfall more than 2 inches above average.

And the number of nights with the thermometer below 35 degrees has been above normal. By contract, the asphalt can't be poured below that temperature. Since Jan. 24, when the construction company began grinding off Maybank's top 2 inches of pavement, the weather service recorded 13 nights of temperatures 34 degrees or lower at the airport.

On top of that, it's not your ordinary repaving. The highway's base is decades old and must be replaced. As a result, after the construction company takes off the top 2 inches of pavement, it must dig down an extra 8 inches and replace that with new asphalt.

And to complicate matters, only one lane of the highway can be repaved that way at a time, and the nearly two-mile section, which runs from the intersection with Folly Road almost to the Stono River bridge, is four and five lanes wide. After the 8 inches of asphalt is completed, the final 2 inches will be added, and the temperature must be at least 45 degrees for that.

So when will the work be finished?

It depends on the weather.

Bo Petersen contributed to this report. Reach Doug Pardue at dpardue@postandcourier.com or 937-5558.