Highway 170 Completion Threatens Local Business

The long-awaited construction along South Carolina Highway 170 in Beaufort is wrapping up and should be complete by November, but not without controversy. While most drivers can't wait till it's finished, one local business owner says if the project goes as planned, it could destroy his business.

If things go as planned, access to the Lemon Island Marina won't be easy for large boats and trucks making deliveries to the marina, and that could put a heavy strain on business.

For more than 30 years, the marina has been at the foot of the Chechessee River Bridge. But since construction on Highway 170 began nearly three years ago, the owner, Clark Lowther, says they've lost half of their business and stand to lose even more if the South Carolina Department of Transportation doesn't change its plans for the marina's new entrance.

"The main access to my property is under the bridge and the clearance is not high enough," said Lowther.

The clearance under the bridge will only be about 11 1/2 feet, which isn't high enough for large boats or trucks making deliveries or pickups to get through. "It's a disaster, that's what it is," said Lowther.

But that's not the only problem. Drivers can only make right turns in and out of the marina. So those who can't make the clearance under the bridge will have to drive out of their way to turn around and then turn into the marina, taking them miles out of their way.

As delivery driver Wayne Lee told us, "I'm going to have to go to Beaufort, and turn around and come back. It's going to put me 30 miles out of my way and we run a tight schedule."

And that's what Lowther is worried about. "My business depends on a lot of traffic and correct access," he said. "I think when they finish that, we going to lose half of that traffic at least and we can't survive that."

We did talk with officials from the South Carolina Department of Transportation and they say the plans are in place for safety reasons and don't plan on making any changes.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com