Bridge replacement work on 378 in the final stages

New bridge on highway 378 next to the old bridge.

Improvements to a road connecting the Pee Dee and Grand Strand are almost finished. By next week, the SC Department of Transportation hopes to have the last bridge on highway 378 complete so traffic can start using it.

Since the summer of 2009, DOT crews have worked on eight bridges on Highway 378 going across the Little Pee Dee River from Horry County to Marion County. Originally built in the 1940's, the bridges were considered structurally deficient. The newer versions are much safer.

"We did widen the bridges quite a bit, so they're wider than they were before. We've widened the shoulders a lot. A lot of the shoulders are paved now with guard rails, so you don't have those steep drop-offs on the edge that you used to have," says Travis Patrick, a DOT construction engineer.

The final completed bridge is expected to open to traffic next week, but that still leaves more work to do.

"We're still demolishing the old bridges. We've gotten a few of them already taken out. We're still working on the last four or five so that will still take awhile to finish up," adds Patrick.

Brian Dado owns the Park and Blow, a gas station right in the middle of all the construction. Five years ago, Dado bought it and in that time he's gotten to know his customers by their first name.

He believes the road work, and lower speed limit as a result, has hurt his business.

"Lot of people they don't like to drive 45, the speed limit. A lot of people take a different route because of that. They used to drive 55 and 65 on 378. Now it's 45 on most of it. Some people don't have patience. I like it that way to be honest," he explains.

He is glad his route to work will be safer.

"That's a positive thing and actually they should have done this long time ago," says Dado. "I'm hoping that when everything goes back to normal, the traffic will be back to normal. So hopefully that will help the business."

Dado wants to give his business a facelift, but he's waiting on the bridge work to be complete. The entire project is expected to be finished in August and cost nearly $32 million.