MOUNT PLEASANT — This weekend, big red cranes will place giant steel beams above U.S. Highway 17 to create the foundation for an overpass connecting Hungryneck Boulevard and Interstate 526.
Because of the work, U.S. 17 will shut down at the location from 10:30 p.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday, and from 11:30 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday.
During that time, a marked loop will detour U.S. 17 traffic around the construction via Mathis Ferry or Rifle Range roads.
When finished, the overpass will mean travelers can breeze over U.S. 17 from I-526 to Hungryneck Boulevard and vice-versa, rather than being stuck or slowed in traffic at the crossroads.
“It is the busiest intersection in town,” said Mayor Billy Swails.
The $26 million project is scheduled for completion in January. It was made possible by funding from the State Infrastructure Bank and is part of a larger project to widen more than seven miles of U.S. 17 from the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to Darrell Creek Trail.
“The Infrastructure Bank is really a great example of how the state helps itself,” said state Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston.
Limehouse, who serves on the bank board, authored legislation that created the bank in 1997. He said the bank was created with funds made available by cutting government waste rather than raising taxes.
The town has so much road construction happening on U.S. 17 that it has taken a tongue-in-cheek approach to the inconvenience of the situation, and it has dubbed the stretch of highway from the Ravenel Bridge to Darrell Creek Trail “Construction Land.”
Signs advising entry into and departure from Construction Land have a smiling orange traffic cone.
Beginning at the Ravenel Bridge, about three miles of U.S. 17 is being widened from four lanes to six lanes under the Charleston County Roadwise program funded through the transportation half-cent sales tax.
As part of the more than $50 million project, frontage roads and traffic lights are being improved, and a new U.S. 17 overpass at Bowman Road recently opened. The work is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2013.
Also, the town has an ongoing $30 million project to widen U.S. 17 from four to six lanes along the five miles from the Isle of Palms connector to Darrell Creek Trail.