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South Carolina Department of Transportation officials said the southern extension of S.C. 31 should be open by Thanksgiving, two years after the original completion date. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

The long-delayed southern extension of S.C. 31 finally opened to traffic Thursday afternoon, according to a news release from the S.C. Department of Transportation.

The six-lane project, which connects S.C. 544 with S.C. 707, is open in both directions, DOT spokeswoman Lauren Roeder said via email.

“There may still be periodic lane closures in the future as final punch list items are completed,” Roeder said.

State and local officials had hoped the road would be open two years ago, but the highway’s final southern leg saw numerous delays. 

DOT officials have offered various reasons for the overdue road, including the devastating flooding from hurricanes in 2015, 2016 and 2018. But officials have attributed the most recent setback to concrete that cracked along a 150-foot section of the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway.

Funded primarily by the State Infrastructure Bank, the bridge extends about 3,800 feet. The cracks in the 150-foot portion forced the contractor, Colorado-based Flatiron Construction Corp., to replace the concrete at the company’s expense. Flatiron has referred all media questions to the DOT.

Although officials maintain there is nothing structurally wrong with the bridge, the cracked concrete in the original project could have exposed the structure’s metal and led to premature rusting if left unaddressed. The bridge is designed to have a 100-year lifespan.

The bridge was repaired over the summer.

Problems with the project led the DOT to penalize Flatiron $5,000 per day for the work being behind schedule. 

The project cost about $100 million.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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I'm the editor of myhorrynews.com and the Carolina Forest Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Horry County, South Carolina. I cover county government, the justice system and agriculture. Know of a story that needs to be covered? Call me at 843-488-7236.

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