First phase of S.C. 160 project nearly done

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By Natalie Harris

INDIAN LAND – It will be at least nine weeks before the Indian Land intersection of S.C. 160 and U.S. 521 is complete, due to an accident June 19.

A Pike Electric Co. truck was delivering new traffic signal mast arms to the S.C. 160 widening project that day. The truck driver and a worker were unloading a mast arm from the truck, parked on the northbound side of U.S. 521, when another of the large arms shifted and fell from the truck, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol.

The arm swung into the road as a tractor-trailer came up the road. The arm went through the oncoming truck's windshield, slicing the cab compartment off the truck. The mast arm then spun on the road, hitting the worker who had been helping unload the arms. He was taken to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he had a rod inserted in his leg.

S.C. Highway Patrol First Sgt. Lonnie Plyler said troopers talked to the worker's wife, who said he should recover fully.

"The amazing part of this incident is that the driver of the tractor-trailer truck wasn't hurt," Plyler said.

Duke Energy is responsible for the mast arms for the project. Duke Energy spokesman Rick Jiran says the damaged mast arms are custom-made, so the manufacturer must make new ones to replace them, which can take up to 28 weeks.

"However, we discussed with them the situation here, and they have committed to getting these mast arms completed in 10 weeks," Jiran said.

He is confident that after the poles are made, they can be shipped and set up in just three weeks.

S.C. Department of Transportation district construction engineer John McCarter says that the project is essentially done because all traffic is in its final patterns. The contractors may have to clean up minor details, and the new mast arms must be installed.

"Otherwise, the project's been completely done since the end of May, the first of June," McCarter said.

The project's primary objective has been adding dual left-turn lanes from S.C. 160 onto U.S. 521 and vice-versa to ease congestion at the intersection.

The project started in April 2007. If the project wraps up on Sept. 18 as anticipated, then it will have taken 17 months to complete. Months more than it should have, according to some residents.

"This project is taking much, much too long and there are many days when no work is being done," Indian Land resident Stephen Magoon wrote in an e-mail last month.

McCarter says the project was delayed by trouble acquiring some property involved in the road widening and by utility work. Electrical lines, gas lines, sewers and other utilities were sometimes in the way of the new project.

"You have to work around or get them to relocate," McCarter said. "It's a huge cost to them, which they have to pass on to their customers, so we try to do as much as we can to not inconvenience them."

The cost was paid in time. Still, McCarter doesn't think the project has been abnormal.

"Nothing happened here that was not typical, especially in an urban area like this," he said.

Resident Brian Konenburger has also been frustrated with the ongoing construction.

"Now that it's done, I guess I'm good, although my grandmother could have built it quicker with a wheelbarrow and a shovel," he said, with a laugh.

Designs are already under way for Phase Two of the S.C. 160 widening project. Phase Two will widen it from Possum Hollow Road to the Sugar Creek bridge into York County. Construction is projected to begin in 2012.