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Bike the Neck: Connections between schools faces more delays

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Work on a bike path that will run down Kings River and Waverly roads is moving forward, but the path won’t be in place by this summer as was hoped.

“It’s just taking forever,” said Linda Ketron, chairwoman of Bike the Neck, a group dedicated to building a trail that runs the length of Waccamaw Neck. “There are a lot of players with fingers in this pie and the economy is not helping.”

Survey work started last summer, which gave many hope that construction wouldn’t be far behind. While that hasn’t been the case, progress has been made since then.

The design process is “well under way for the two sections of bike path from Willbrook Boulevard to Waverly Road,” said Paul Battaglino, Georgetown County’s capital projects coordinator.

Paths will be constructed from Willbrook to the north side of the parking lot at All Saints Church, from the parking lot to the junction of Kings River and Waverly, and from Waccamaw Elementary School to Martin Luther King Road.

The hope is to link the three in the future, connecting Willbrook to the elementary school.

Georgetown County School District, working with Safe Routes to School, is in charge of the segment of the path that runs in front of the school, but the other two segments are county projects. The S.C. Department of Transportation is managing the project on the county’s behalf.

Kimley-Horn and Associates of Raleigh has been contracted by DOT to handle the design of the paved pathway and a 300-foot wooden bike bridge over a wetlands area south of All Saints that comprise the county’s portion of the project. Initial designs have been completed and reviewed by officials with the county and DOT, according to Battaglino.

Completion of an updated set of plans and a preliminary cost estimate are expected by May 1.

After that, environmental permits will be sought from the Corps of Engineers. The application process will take at least 60 days.

“The best case scenario would be completion of the final drawings by July, and a bid opening by October,” Battaglino said. But permitting “could take up to six months if there are issues to be resolved.”

And bidding could also be held up by work on the school district’s portion of the project. Kimley-Horn will design that segment of the path too, but that design work hasn’t started. Plans are to construct all three phases at the same time.

“Once that third phase is under way, then we’ll have a better handle on the overall schedule,” Battaglino said.

While expansion work creeps forward, the existing trail is being fixed.

Repairs started this week on the heavily-used 3.5-mile path that runs through Huntington Beach State Park. It was damaged by tree roots. Work should be completed in mid-April, Battaglino said.

“Initially, a 5,000-foot section of pathway between Trace Drive and the area across from the entrance to Brookgreen Gardens will be closed for repairs. Once those repairs are concluded, that area will be reopened and repairs will continue northward with sections closed as required,” he said.

Work also began this week between the entrances to Huntington Marsh and Inlet Marsh off Highway 17. Santee Cooper is installing utility poles in that area.

That work is expected to take several months and Santee Cooper promised to try to keep the path open as much as possible, Battaglino said. But the path will have to be closed to allow staging of heavy equipment.

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