Project to relieve congested area

The busiest and most congested intersection and stretch of highway in Charleston will be getting a $6.8 million makeover designed to make traffic flow better and improve driver and pedestrian safety, Mayor Joe Riley said Wednesday.

The work will widen from four lanes to six lanes about a mile of Glenn McConnell Parkway from Essex Farm Road to Tobias Gadson Boulevard. The project will improve the parkway intersections with Magwood Drive and Interstate 526, officials said.

"It will make a real difference," Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said.

Riley, Pryor and other officials spoke at a press conference.

The heavily developed area is home to restaurants, big box retailers, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital and large subdivisions. Charleston County voters approved the road work in a 2006 referendum. It is funded through the county's half-cent sales tax program.

Magwood Drive leaving the hospital will be widened from two lanes to three lanes, a change that will provide for a designated left-turn lane, a single through-lane and a right-turn lane onto the parkway. On the other side of the parkway next to Home Depot and McDonald's, Magwood Drive will have dual left turn lanes and a through- or right-turn lane onto the parkway, officials said. The stoplight timing at the intersection will be changed so that left turns can be made simultaneously from the northbound and southbound lanes of Magwood Drive.

Sanders Brothers is the contractor. The work is expected to take about a year. The four lanes for the parkway generally will remain open while a third lane is built on both sides of the highway, officials said. However, the existing lanes on both sides of the parkway will be narrowed and shifted toward the median while the third lane is built. Road shoulders will be closed on an as-needed basis. If any lane closures are required, that work will be done at night.