Enquirer Herald

Engineers: S.C. 5 Bypass work still on schedule

County and state transportation engineers told York city officials they don’t expect a delay in the S.C. 5 Bypass widening project being completed by the end of the year, despite the need for repairs on some of the work.

“At this point, those issues have not caused the contractor to ask for a time extension,” York County engineer Phil Leazer told members of the York City Council last week.

Jason Johnston, an S.C. Department of Transportation district engineer, who also spoke to the council, said he’s comfortable with a November 2012 completion deadline. He added that other sections of the road are still being tested for similar problems.

The 5.1-mile widening to five lanes from S.C. 161 to S.C. 5 West is part of the county’s Pennies for Progress road program. It was approved on the first list of projects in 1997. The project was renewed by voters a second time in 2003 and again last year.

Because of cost overruns and other problems, however, the bypass widening didn’t begin until about 18 months ago.

Leazer said last month that “a couple hundred feet” of roadway on a one-lane section near the approach to York Comprehensive High School has cracked and shown “signs of early deterioration.” The section in question is just west of the S.C. 49 intersection.

Leazer said last month that the problem might mean a three-month delay. However, both Leazer and Johnston said last week that they work with the contractor daily and no need for an extention has been discussed.

Several council members expressed concerns about the safety of students and others traveling near the high school. Johnston said the road repairs would not be complete before school begins in August.

York Mayor Eddie Lee also said local economic development has been affected, noting that a fast food restaurant that planned to open on the bypass has planned to open elsewhere because of the road project delays.

Leazer and Johnston both said the road material wasn’t mixed properly. Boggs Paving of Monroe, N.C., primary contractor for the $11.5 million bypass widening project, has acknowledged the problem and agreed to fix it, they said.

“There is no smoking gun,” said Johnston. “It’s not something we’re proud of — as engineers, you don’t want to build things twice.”

Johnston said York County has poor soils, so the road is built over a base that is a mixture of cement and rock. He said tests by the DOT suggest that the base mixture was not properly blended.

Since the problem arose, Johnston said, that type of base material is no longer being used on road projects in any of the seven counties he oversees.

He added that other sections of the road widening may need repairs as well due to the breakdown of the road base. However, Johnston said “initial tests” have shown that the problem is not as severe elsewhere as it is on the section of road in front of the high school.