South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) officials presented information and answered questions regarding proposed improvements to the intersection of US 29 and Welcome Road during a public information meeting last Thursday at the Williamston Municipal Center.
SCDOT is proposing a single lane modern roundabout at the location along with curb and gutter installation, and drainage improvements. McAlister Road, Cantrell Road and Crappie Drive would also see improvements related to the project.
The intersection was selected for improvement through the Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). The program uses a data driven approach to identify locations throughout the state with high crash rates or patterns and implements safety enhancement through infrastructure-related improvements.
The HSIP project selection requires an engineering study that includes analysis of crash dates, assessment of field conditions and evaluation of the effectiveness of countermeasures.
Persons attending the meeting were able to speak directly with SCDOT officials about the project. Some of the recurring concerns were about a “roundabout on Hwy. 29”, “the effects of peak traffic periods”, “speed: and “18 wheelers.”
SCDOT Project Manager Shawn Salley said the purpose of the project is to bring the intersection into conformance with current design safety standards to help reduce the frequency and severity of crashes occurring at the intersection of Hwy. 29 and Welcome Road.
Salley said that a recent safety analysis showed a pattern of crashes at the location resulting from high speeds and failure to yield right of way.
He also said roundabouts are designed to slow traffic while allowing traffic to move more freely, making it safer and more efficient. According to Salley, the roundabout design slows traffic to 25 mph and there will be advance warning signs indicating a “Roundabout Ahead”, which also begin to slow traffic.
“It makes the intersection safer,” he said.
Salley said the most recent study of intersections converted to a single-lane roundabout in the state have shown to reduce injury crashes by 79 percent and total crashes by 64 percent.
He said that roundabouts help prevent right-angle crashes, which are one of the most severe, often resulting in serious injury or fatality.
A simulated traffic program was one of the video displays at the meeting.
It showed how traffic, including transfer trucks, maneuver through the roundabout and are able to turn onto adjacent roads at the intersection. Part of the roundabout design includes an “apron” that allows 18 wheelers to maneuver around it, Salley said.
Salley said there were some high traffic situations that occurred during traffic studies and reflected in the simulation, but overall SCDOT considered the roundabout the best solution for improving safety at the intersection and “to take out the severity of crashes.”
There have been discussions through the years of making Hwy. 29 from the Jockey Lot to I-85 a four lane road. For the foreseeable future, the two single lane sections of Hwy. 29 on either side of the four lane section at the Beaverdam Bridge Replacement project, will remain single lane.
When asked, SCDOT officials said they were not aware of any future plans to widen the highway.
Anderson County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson said a Freight Mobility Study is being planned for Hwy. 29 and that she is working with other government officials to get widening of Hwy. 29 onto the list for future projects.
Project information, including meeting materials and comment forms, are available on the SCDOT project website https://scdotgis.online/US29safetyproject.
Additional information concerning the project may be obtained by contacting SCDOT Project Manager Shawn Salley at 803-737-1949.