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SCDOT, Claflin worked to coordinate efforts; Magnolia construction to be substantially done next week
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SCDOT, Claflin worked to coordinate efforts; Magnolia construction to be substantially done next week

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Claflin SCDOT

The S.C. Department of Transportation and Claflin University worked together to ensure a Magnolia Street road project respects the institution’s look.

As the state nears completion of the $5.7 million intersection project near Claflin University, emails show the effort that was needed to match the work with the institution’s look.

S.C. Department of Transportation District 7 Administrator Kevin Gantt said the communication with Claflin did not alter the critical path of the road project or lengthen it.

In fact, Gantt said the current delay is related to work with the railroad and utility companies to get power to the intersection and get traffic signals installed.

Work began on the road project in January 2018 and is expected to be substantially completed Jan. 16. Project officials say there will be some cleanup and punch list work following this date.

The project eliminated railroad crossings at Zan Street and Peasley Street and replaced them with a new route from Boulevard Street to Magnolia Street. The new route is located directly across from the president’s house at Claflin.

Left-turn lanes were added along both legs of Magnolia Street approaching the route. New sidewalks were installed, among other work.

Claflin University and SCDOT officials have tried to ensure the historic campus’s architecture ties in seamlessly with the road project, according to documents obtained by The T&D.

Email correspondence between SCDOT contractors, Claflin officials and university architects reveal the parties were in discussions from 2018 through February 2019.

The discussions specifically focused on SCDOT's plans to construct a brick wall and the university's plans to construct a monument sign at Magnolia and Clark streets.

The brick Claflin sign serves as a gateway sign for the university on Magnolia Street and identifies 1869 as the date of the university’s founding.

Michael Allen reached out to SCDOT Program Manager Adam Humphries on June 2, 2018 identifying himself as the architect on Claflin’s new Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Center.

“We need to coordinate the new wall you are constructing on Magnolia with our monument sign on the corner of Magnolia and Clark Street,” Allen said in the email.

Allen requested coordination of location, size and brick colors.

Humphries responded to Allen on June 14, 2018.

“We have a provision in the contract for a contractor to provide samples of the brick to be used for Claflin’s input and SCDOT’s resident construction engineer’s approval,” Humphries wrote. “The design of the wall is in the plans, but our staff would be happy to discuss the coordination with Claflin’s project and ours.”

Humphries referred Allen to SCDOT Resident Construction Engineer Darryl Kennerly.

In a July 9 email, Brandon Trout of F&ME Consultants informed Claflin Vice President for Administration Drexel Ball that SCDOT wanted a written record of the type of brick Claflin would like used for the retaining wall.

About two months later, Allen provided both Humphries and Kennerly with the design and layout for the university’s health and wellness center, informing them they are connecting to SCDOT’s wall on Magnolia and wondering if SCDOT had to approve the project.

SCDOT’s Humphries responded, “The wall in front of Claflin’s gymnasium is being built on Claflin’s right-of-way.

“SCDOT worked out an agreement with Claflin to build the aesthetic wall in lieu of right-of-way payment for the property acquired for the project. Maintenance/ownership of the wall is Claflin’s in the after. They will be tying into their own wall in the end.”

After discussions, it was determined that an encroachment permit was required for Claflin’s sign due to the fact that it is within the SCDOT right-of-way.

SCDOT asked Allen for sign specifications and requested Allen obtain an encroachment permit for the Claflin monument sign.

“Permits are free,” Kennerly said. “If you choose not to get one, and you encroach and something happens, it would stand to reason that Claflin University would be held to a higher degree of liability. Considering the narrow lanes and high volumes of traffic, I would get the encroachment permit if I were you.”

SCDOT then sought to schedule a meeting between Allen, the SCDOT contractor for the project and the wall subcontractor.

There was also discussion between SCDOT and the architect about landscaping that had to be removed to make way for the wall.

The monument sign and the wall were just a few examples of the effort to make sure the road project respected the historic integrity of the university and its surrounding neighborhood.

Other details included the installation of iron fencing behind the brick wall in front of Claflin as well as the brick work along Boulevard to re-establish the footwall and other historic features along Boulevard Street.

The Peasley and Zan intersections with Magnolia were a concern for years.

The intersections were the site of a number of vehicle-on-vehicle collisions as well as vehicle-train collisions, with at least one vehicle-train fatality.

About $3.25 million of the $5.7 million project cost came from federal earmarks, $1.55 million from the Lower Savannah Council of Governments, $500,000 from the Orangeburg County Transportation Committee and $350,000 from federal money for railroad protection devices.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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