by Brian Sherman, The Island Eye News Editor
Drivers traveling to and from Sullivan’s Island might face minor delays over the next six months while Mount Pleasant Waterworks completes a project that will provide an additional connection to the Charleston Water System.
Work got underway Jan. 4 on the Ben Sawyer Intracoastal Water Main Connection Project, which will keep water flowing to Mount Pleasant homes and businesses when demand is high and also will shut down the bike and pedestrian path along Ben Sawyer Boulevard from Center Street to Toler’s Cove Drive. MPW General Manager Clay Duffie said the path on the bridge and on Sullivan’s Island will remain open, as will both lanes of traffic, except when construction equipment is in the roadway. He added that people who live on the west side of the road will continue to have access to their houses and condos.
Duffie said closing the bike path was necessary because construction crews require the area west of the road to assemble nearly a mile-long section of pipe that will be pulled under the Intracoastal Waterway and connected to the Charleston system in a field near Sullivan’s Island’s treatment plant. He said using the east side of the road was not an option.
“It’s the only place we could construct the pipe,” Duffie said.
“There a lots of good reasons why we’re doing it that way. There’s a huge power line on the east side of the bridge under the Waterway, and the least amount of environmental damage will be done by using the bike path.”
He added that building a temporary bike path on the east side of Ben Sawyer would be both difficult and costly, especially since construction is well underway on an apartment complex there.
Assembly of the 5,000-foot-long pipe is expected to begin sometime after it is scheduled for delivery on Jan. 19. Until then, crews from Quality Enterprises USA of Naples, Florida, will be widening the asphalt on the east side of Ben Sawyer to prepare for temporary changes in the traffic pattern; installing concrete barriers and traffic barrels; and working on a temporary access road on the west side of Ben Sawyer that will be used by residents of The Watch at Sullivan’s Pointe, Simmons Pointe and Sawyers Landing.
According to Duffie, the equipment necessary to pull the 18-inch pipe under the Waterway, a horizontal directional drill, requires about an acre-and-aquarter of space. That area is being provided on the soccer field adjacent to Sullivan’s Island’s treatment plant, which is currently undergoing a $16.3-million renovation. In September, Sullivan’s Island Water & Sewer Department Manager Greg Gress pointed out that the new connection probably won’t serve as a backup for the town, which has an agreement to buy water from the Isle of Palms in emergency situations.
The $8.5-million project, the cost of which will be split evenly between Mount Pleasant Waterworks and the Charleston Water System, is scheduled for completion in June.
“We like to underpromise and overperform,” Duffie said. “I think it will be done this summer. We’ll encourage the contractor to move as quickly as possible.”