Improving U.S. 601

By Christina Fisher | September 28, 2010

Blythe Construction, Inc. is one year into a four-lane divided highway project that will widen a dangerous and heavily traveled 10.8-mile segment of U.S. 601 from Monroe, NC, to the South Carolina state line. Dubbed the “Death Highway” due the high number of traffic fatalities, Wayne Ramsey, project manager with Blythe Construction, hopes that after the project is completed, this nickname will be permanently put to rest.

Blythe is self-performing the majority of the work on this $53-million design-build project. Their scope of work includes construction of the new northbound lanes, widening the existing southbound lanes, and installing two conspans, two box culverts and about 50,000 feet of pipe.

Clearing began in August 2007, and shortly thereafter Blythe installed erosion control devices such as 9,000 feet of silt fence and 50 stilling basins with Faircloth skimmers. By October they had received the final grade right-of-way plans and began moving material – approximately 800,000 yards of unclassified excavation.

The project has been broken down into four sections – the south section (2.2 miles), M1 (2 miles), M2 (4.5 miles), and the north section (2.5 miles). These sections have been broken down into Phase 1, construction of the new northbound lanes, and Phase 2, widening of the existing southbound lanes. The project is moving from south to north, and Phase 1 on the south end is primarily complete, while the north section is still undergoing rough grading.

The existing U.S. 601 is a typical rural roadway that follows the natural topography of the land. With the high volume of truck traffic and summertime beach traffic that now travels at high speeds down this highway, these dips and hills have created unsafe conditions. Blythe Construction is flattening out both the new northbound lanes and reconfiguring the existing roadway to match the new lanes. The job is balanced with enough cut to fill.

Following lime stabilization, construction of the new roadbed includes 8 inches of stone base, 10 inches of asphalt base, 4 inches of an intermediate course, and 3.5 inches of surface course. Some sections of the existing roadway will be removed and stabilized, while other portions will be widened 2 feet to the inside followed by an overlay. Blythe plans to expand in this market south of Charlotte, NC, and has built a new asphalt plant in nearby Jefferson, SC, to supply not only this job, but also future projects.

Designed to handle anticipated traffic volumes until 2050, the project is scheduled for completion in December 2009.