The South Carolina Department of Transportation's (SCDOT) SC 61 Rural Road Safety Project - Phase I in Dorchester County has been named as a finalist in the 2021 America's Transportation Awards competition on September 24, 2021. This project is one of the "Top 12" projects across the nation competing for the two highest awards in the program; The Grand Prize and the People's Choice Award.
SCDOT's SC 61 Rural Road Safety Project – Phase I became eligible for these high honors in August of 2021 when it was named a winner in the "Operations Excellence" category in the first round of the competition. This project is part of SCDOT's Rural Road Safety Program in the agency's Strategic 10-Year Plan to Rebuild SC's Roads & Bridges.
SC 61 is a National Scenic Byway near the Ashley River. The historic live oak-lined roadway is home to Middleton Place Plantation, Magnolia Plantation & Gardens and Drayton Hall. However, growth in SC's Lowcountry and increasing traffic created significant increases in crash, injury and fatality rates. For those reasons, this highway was targeted by the Rural Road Safety Program and its mission to improve the "worst of the worst" roads.
SCDOT engineers developed a safety improvement plan in 2019 for Phase I, a 6.5 mile corridor. Following a public meeting, SCDOT staff reviewed hundreds of comments and suggestions submitted by members of numerous historic preservation and conservation groups. The major concern was a loss of the centuries-old oak trees that create the road canopy and other scenic features. The plan was refined using the comments provided by the public and the special interest groups.
The result was a new roadbed and pavement, wider lanes with three-foot paved shoulder, center and outside edge rumble strips and more signage and paint markings to increase visibility. Safety was greatly enhanced and not one of the large oak trees was removed.
Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said she was pleased by the recognition received by this Rural Safety project. "SC 61 – Phase I was an exceptional project designed by a team that listened to the concerns of the public. The goals of providing a much safer roadway for motorists, while preserving the beauty of this historic Lowcountry landscape were both achieved. I'd like to express my gratitude to our design team and the community members who helped tailor this work that resulted in an award-winning project," said Hall.
The Grand Prize will be determined by a panel of independent of judges and experts within the transportation industry. The People's Choice Award will be selected through online voting beginning Friday, September 24, 2021 through 11:59 p.m. on Monday, October 25, 2021. Votes can be cast at www.AmericasTransportationAwards.org.
The winners of the both awards include a $10,000 cash prize that can be donated to a charity or transportation-related scholarship fund as chosen by the winners. The awards competition is sponsored by the American Association of Transportation & Highway Officials (AASHTO), The American Automobile Association (AAA) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.