September 15, 2014

Commission approves deal for major Upstate interchange construction

2012 map shows SCDOT's preferred plan for I-85/I-385 improvements (Courtesy: SCDOT)

2012 map shows SCDOT’s plan for I-85/I-385 improvements (Courtesy: SCDOT)

South Carolina’s transportation department is now moving forward on its largest project in nearly 13 years.

The state Transportation Commission on Thursday approved a contract for Flatiron-Zachry Joint Venture to revamp the Interstates 85-385 intersection in Greenville County.

The $231 million project is the most expensive overseen by the South Carolina Department of Transportation since it awarded a contract for the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston Harbor back in 2001.

Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Poore said the project will be helped with $80 million in bonds approved by legislators under Act 98 approved last year. “The interchange has an average daily traffic count of 194,000 vehicles,” Poore told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s not really designed to handle that much traffic safely.”

Poore said the contractor will 1035 days (about two years and 10 months) to complete the project once a Notice-To-Proceed order is issued by SCDOT.

Victims identified in Mount Pleasant plane crash

Federal investigators are now on the scene of a small plane crash near the Mount Pleasant Regional Airport that killed two people Thursday morning.

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Authority and the National Transportation Safety Board will examine the wreckage of the Cessna 150 for evidence of why the plane crashed while taking off shortly after 11:30 a.m.

The Charleston County Coroner’s Office has identified the victims as 20-year-old Matt Gaither of Johns Island and 33-year-old Graham Borland of North Charleston, a flight instructor.

A statement from the Charleston County Aviation Authority said the wreckage was found in a grassy area approximately 200 yards from the north end of the airport’s sole runway.

The plane was registered to Hanger Aviation out of Johns Island. When contacted by the Charleston Post & Courier, the company said had been leasing out the plane for two weeks.

Another pilot who witnessed the crash told the Moultrie News he watched the plane struggling to get into the air. The witness said the pilot turned around to come back and the plane nosedived into the ground.


Greer road closed indefinitely after washout


Aftermath of the washed-out Memorial Drive in Greer (Image: SCDOT)

Aftermath of the washed-out Memorial Drive in Greer (Image: SCDOT)

Parts of Memorial Drive in Greer will be closed for several months after flooding this past weekend washed out a section of the road.

South Carolina Department of Transportation District 3 maintenance engineer Jason Allison said a 96-inch drainage pipe could not handle the runoff from an estimated six inches of rain the area received Saturday night.

Once it started undermining the roadway, it didn’t take long for it to… wash out the dirt on one side of the pipe and create a void there,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “Pipe’s still intact. Pipe’s still in place, it just washed everything away.”

Allison said it will take months to rebuild the road, especially since engineers are deciding if they want to change the culvert’s design.

SCDOT said two vehicles became trapped after they attempted to cross the washed out culvert and roadway Saturday. Four people were rescued and two were taken to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The damaged culvert is located on Memorial Drive just west of Tryon Street near the Second Baptist Church in Greer. Drivers needing to go around the closed road will need to take a 2-mile detour.

Lawsuit moves forward in high-speed chase that killed child near Spartanburg

7-year-old Queniya Shelton died after her mother crashed while fleeing police

7-year-old Queniya Shelton died after her mother crashed while fleeing police

A state judge has moved a lawsuit against the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, deciding that a federal court should decide if deputies are liable for a high-speed crash that killed a seven-year-old girl in August 2012.

Queniya Tykia Shelton died after the SUV her mother was driving lost control and crashed on Interstate 85. Deputies say then the mother Errika Shelton, then 26, had been fleeing from a traffic stop at speeds over 100 miles per hour. The younger Shelton died after she was ejected from the flipping SUV.

Errika’s mother Trena Rice filed a lawsuit against the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Chuck Wright and the deputy who initiated the chase in April, according to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Rice had sought a civil trial in state court, but Judge Derham Cole sided with attorneys representing the sheriff’s office and moved the case to federal jurisdiction.

Rice’s lawsuit claims deputies drove “carelessly and recklessly” in their pursuit of Shelton. Sheriff Wright said the deputies did not realize a child was in the SUV until they saw the child safety seat after the crash.

Wright has not commented on the lawsuit, but said at the time that he believed his deputies acted properly.  “We are the police and we chase bad guys,” he told reporters the day of the crash, “That’s been happening ever since it’s been horseback. We’re not at fault in this wreck.”

Shelton pleaded guilty in May 2013 to failure to stop for a blue light with a death involved, habitual offender with a death, reckless homicide, child neglect, driving under suspension, and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. She was sentenced to 13 years in prison, followed by five years of probation.

AAA: Number of substandard bridges declining, slightly, in SC

SCDOT says construction crews are currently working to replace this one-lane truss bridge near the town of Enoree. Work will finish in July 2015.

SCDOT says construction crews are currently working to replace this one-lane truss bridge near the town of Enoree. Work will finish in July 2015.

A new report found that slightly fewer of South Carolina’s bridges are considered obsolete or deficient, but more than one in every five are still considered substandard.

The report released Wednesday by AAA Carolinas examined the state’s 9,200 bridges and found about 21 percent (1,828 overall) are considered “substandard,” which means they are not designed to handle the traffic volume they see each day. That was a small decrease from the 2012 report, when 1,880 bridges were classified as substandard. The national average is 24 percent.

Substandard bridges fall under two categories by federal guidelines: structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Structurally deficient is defined as “being in relatively poor physical condition and/or inadequate to handle truck weight.” Functionally obsolete is defined as “having inadequate design for current traffic volume.” The designation does not mean the bridges are unsafe.

“South Carolina’s bridges have improved. They’ve gone from 23 percent to this year being around 20-21 percent,” AAA Carolinas spokeswoman Tiffany Wright told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s a small increase but, hey, it’s an improvement.” [Read more...]