Representative: SCDOT responsible for road safety hazard

Some people have harsh words for a road project in Aiken County. A state lawmaker even calls the project "amateur." The project is supposed to realign Railroad Street in Bath behind the post office. It


News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Sep. 19, 2013

BATH, S.C. (WRDW) -- For almost a year now, Billy Kight has been greeted with the same ugly site every day.

"It's just ridiculous that it's taken a year for a job that's probably about 400 yards of asphalt," he says of the road behind the post office in Bath.

It doesn't look like much, but it's the new Railroad Street right off SC-421 in Bath. It's a project that aims to pave a crossing over the Norfolk-Southern railroad. In the process, people living along Church Street and Front Street would have a more direct route to Railroad Street and SC-421.

"They promised this road would be put in within a year, and it's been almost two years now, and it's just an eyesore," Kight says.

Documents suggest this project should have been completed months ago on May 31, but Kight says, by the looks of it, this project is nowhere near completion.

"It's just time that somebody come in here and finish it or move the equipment out and just leave it like it is," he tells News 12.

State Representative Roland Smith, who represents parts of Midland Valley including Bath, is fed up too. News 12 asked Rep. Smith what the price-tag of the project is already.

"God only knows," Smith says. "It is a mess left here in the eyes of the community."

Documents on-site show an Augusta construction company, Mabus Brothers Construction Company, won the bid with a roughly $186,000 price tag. The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) now says, given some unforeseen expenses, the total cost will be roughly $215,000.

That's bad news to Rep. Smith. He says he's heard different reasons why work has slowed or halted, but he blames SCDOT for being a bad manager.

"Now, I know you've got some machinery sitting over here, but that machinery has been sitting there for weeks, just sitting there idle, to make us think they're going to do the work. I come by here everyday to see if something's started," Smith says.

And on Thursday as Smith surveyed the construction site, yet again, there wasn't a worker to be found.

"So everything you see here is a safety hazard that has been created by South Carolina DOT here in Aiken County," says Smith, who's also the chairman of the Transportation and Regulatory Budget Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Jeff Terry, a construction engineer with the SCDOT Aiken Office, says the project certainly has been long and drawn out. However, he says work should begin next week. He says the recent summer rains set back contractor Mabus Brothers. He says some delays have also come from Norfolk Southern not being on-site with Mabus Brothers at the same time.

Terry estimates that the project will be completed by early October. He says, based on spending, the project is approximately 49% done.

As for the larger-than-expected price-tag, Terry says the contractor needed additional pipework and additional earthwork at the request of Norfolk Southern. Terry says some faulty material also helped balloon the price.

Ultimately, Terry says any business problems Mabus Brothers may or may not be having does not affect the price taxpayers will ultimately see. Taxpayers have only paid for the amount of work done so far.

However, Rep. Smith, who essentially controls some of SCDOT's purse strings, hopes to improve the image of the state agency during next year's legislative session.

"You know, I'm beginning to wonder if Noah built the ark in less time than they've been building this road here," Rep. Smith says.

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