Low Country Residents Urge DOT to Widen Highway 17 - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports


Low Country Residents Urge DOT to Widen Highway 17

Residents meet with DOT official. Residents meet with DOT official.

US 17 is one of the most dangerous stretches of highway you'll find. Over the years, people driving between Beaufort and Charleston have learned to be extremely careful. About ten years ago, the South Carolina Department of Transportation tried to four-lane this stretch, but that failed. Now, they're trying again.

Almost two years have gone by, and Kassandra Leek's mother, Sherry, still avoids Highway 17. "I don't like to drive by the section that she was killed. And it's not safe."

Sherry Leek was one of dozens of people who turned out for a meeting Monday night to tell the South Carolina DOT they support efforts to widen the road, even while other roads get work done ahead of Highway 17. "We'd only been here for three months before our daughter was killed on this road, so I had no idea the history of this road," Sherry said. "As I find out, yes it's very frustrating."

In March, three Navy sailors were killed in an accident just north of Gardens Corner. It's one of several high-profile wrecks that's giving this project a little more fuel.

The project could cost more than $140 million, depending on what the final plans look like. DOT officials say it's past due though, since the fatality rate on this one section of Highway 17 is 75 percent higher than that of interstates in South Carolina.

"There's 211 miles of US 17 in South Carolina, and all but around 36 is already multilanes," said Wilson Elgin, a DOT program manager. "So this 22-mile segment needs to catch up."

People with connections to at least four deadly accidents turned up Monday, hoping they can help this project move forward. Sherry Leek said, "I just want to make sure another mother doesn't receive the news I did that night."

If the project does get approval, the DOT would still need to secure more funding to make it happen. But they're hoping to start work in a little over a year from now.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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