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Letter: 29020 -- A construction zone?

Posted: July 30, 2018 3:38 p.m.
Updated: July 31, 2018 1:00 a.m.

What with all of the orange safety cones, drums and netting which proliferates throughout Camden, our city resembles one gigantic construction zone and will become more so as “improvement projects” continue. It seems that the S.C. Dept. of Transportation digs one hole, then moves on to dig another hole without completing the first hole. Witness the supposed truck route or truck improvement route that was begun several years ago along Springdale Drive and Boykin Road. That project was reportedly to be completed several years ago. I witnessed contractor after contractor move piles of dirt around and tear up pavement, only to replace the same, and, all of the while, ripping up the front of private property owners’ yards and disrupting traffic along one of the most heavily used routes within zip code 29020. The project is still unfinished!
In the meantime, millions of dollars of construction equipment have remained idle for considerable periods. Who is paying for that?

Yet, two other major truck improvement projects were begun while the first one remains incomplete. One of these projects entails demolition and replacement of at least two bridges. All of these improvements require major intersection reconstructions, drainage improvements and cut and fill operations, as well as route reconfigurations, sidewalk demolition/reconstruction and utility reconfigurations. All of these projects entail complicated, complex design and engineering considerations. So, the question begs to be asked: how many more years will pass before those projects and other work to facilitate these truck improvement routes are successfully ended? As I recall, the truck routes and related work were scheduled to be completed sometime in 2019 to 2020. Well, guess what, folks: 2019 is just months away and from the appearance of the progress (or lack thereof) on these routes, how many more years will 29020 be subjected to all these improvements? This does not even address the U.S. 521 South corridor improvements, including planned replacement of the Big Pine Tree Creek Bridge.

Now, add to all these projects the repaving of Broad Street from Ehrenclou Drive through downtown, extending beyond the DeKalb and Broad Street intersection. That project began in earnest on Friday, July 17. Were merchants and the public given appropriate and timely notification about this disrupting “improvement?” Nothing is found on the city of Camden webpage and nothing was mentioned in an email distributed by the city on Friday July 27. Seemingly, the only noticeable announcement thus far is a photograph captioned “Repaving underway” found on page 5 of the July 27, 2018 issue of the Chronicle-Independent, which stated in part that “full-depth patching work was underway.” The caption went on to say “sometime after completing the patching, the contractor will begin resurfacing.” Furthermore, the photo article said that “the entire project was expected to be completed by the end of November.”

When has a SCDOT project been completed on time? Certainly none within zipcode 29020 within recent memory! It is of special note that the resurfacing work began on the same day the newspaper was made available to the public. Furthermore, it should be noted that apparently none of the resurfacing work is being done during the hours of darkness, when traffic has decreased. Reverse cycle work seems to work elsewhere. Why not here?

Looking at the effects of these projects, particularly the Broad Street project, I am reminded of the opposition to the Broad Street road diet proposal of several years ago. The concerns expressed then are being previewed now. One can only imagine the full effect of such an ill-conceived concept.

The disruptions caused by these projects, coupled with the city’s much needed underground and other infrastructure projects have, I believe, frustrated citizens and visitors to the point that confidence is shaken in those at all levels who make decisions that have such major impacts upon this community. Certainly, it will be said that “we are making progress,” but when will that progress come to final fruition?

Why am I wasting time with this piece? Primarily, because I have lived here permanently since 1972, and since then, have voted, paid taxes and have supported many good things within this community. Further, I have served in many capacities in the private and public sectors during my working life. Most particularly, I served almost 32 years, mostly as an engineer officer assigned to various units of the S.C. Army National Guard. During that time, units with which I served, either as a commander or a staff officer, conducted many construction projects in diverse areas of the world, from Alaska to South America and throughout the state of South Carolina, including the massive recovery efforts along the coast following Hurricane Hugo. These projects included a number in Kershaw County, which included assisting in the construction of Ehrenclou Drive during the 1980s. That was done, in part, to facilitate the construction of a new Camden National Guard Armory. That mission was later extended to continue Ehrenclou Drive to U.S. 521. That work by the SCNG 122nd Engineer Battalion created the truck route now being reconstructed and opened that area of Camden to development by the Kershaw County School District and the state. To my recollection, never was one “hole” dug by the units I was associated with and left unfinished before going on to another “hole.” During my experiences, I have seen many things fail, but many more have succeeded with effort on the part of those committed to the missions. As the motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers states, “Essayons,” the literal interpretation of which is, “We will try.”

Having said that, I am reminded of the title of a play, “Will success spoil Rock Hunter?”

I fervently hope that “success” will not spoil Camden!

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