JASPER CO., SC (WTOC) - The South Carolina Department of Transportation held a public forum Thursday night at Ridgeland Baptist Church to talk about changes to I-95 in the Lowcountry.
WTOC spoke with the safety engineer, who found out the motivation behind the proposed project.
The meeting was an opportunity for residents to meet with DOT officials to learn more about the proposed project to improve the safety on I-95. The project is an attempt to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries along the corridor in Jasper County.
The department identified the Jasper County corridor as one of the top areas in the state with a high occurrence of fatalities. Compared to the rest of the state, this strip of I-95 is nearly 50 percent above the state average when it comes to interstate fatalities. The agency is looking to install more rumble strips to alert drivers, and widen the median to offer a larger clear zone.
"The primary cause of crashes is identified as road departure, vehicles leaving the roadway, so we are really taking a step approach for safety improvements. One is to keep vehicles on the roadway as much as possible. Second is if they do leave the roadway, to provide an opportunity for them to recover or safely regain control of the vehicle," said Brett Harrelson, State Safety Engineer, SCDOT.
The proposed project will start at the SC/GA state line and run up to mile marker 33. Over the past five years, there have been more than 1,400 accidents on this strip alone, resulting in 31 fatalities.
That's why, as part of the department's proposed safety project, medians in that area will be widened and extra rumble strips will be installed. The department will also be removing fixed objects as part of this project. At least 20 percent of the serious accidents involved trees.
"Part of the clear zone area will be the removal of any fixed objects including trees in that 55-foot clear zone we've identified. That's based on national guidelines that, based on the speed of the drivers, the amount of traffic on the roadway and the slopes of the shoulders once you leave the roadway. All that plays in as a factor of how much area of clear zone you should have," said Harrelson.
The department is hoping to have all necessary permits secured within the next few months. They are hoping to start construction as early as fall of this year.