Beaufort County Councilwoman Cynthia Bensch said she never knew "speed bumps" were part of the U.S. 278 widening project.
But that's what she and other drivers are finding -- some of them experiencing a sudden, unexpected jolt -- as they travel the five-mile stretch of highway between S.C. 170 and Simmonsville Road, she said.
The bumps are the result of uneven pavement and several-inch changes in elevations as work crews make their way down the widening road.
"They are like speed bumps, but not only can you not slow down for them, but you are hitting them at 45 mph or more," said Bensch, who represents District 7 in Bluffton. "Quite a few people have asked me what is going on."
Beaufort County has received several complaints in recent weeks about the bumps, county spokeswoman Joy Nelson said.
The bumps are seen -- and felt -- when driving across U.S. 278 at intersections, as well as the transition lanes to merge traffic on and off the highway. Some large bumps have also recently been created at the ends of the project near S.C. 170 and just before Simmonsville Road in the eastbound lane.
The bumps and uneven pavement are the result of being in the last stages of the project, said Chris Smith, S.C. Department of Transportation resident construction engineer. The construction crews have to grind down the old pavement before they can apply the new asphalt, and that creates the bumps, Smith said.
When the county receives complaints, it passes them to the DOT, Nelson said. The DOT and the contractor then work to address the complaint, Smith said, such as adding asphalt to smooth out the uneven layers.
Bensch said she's heard complaints from 50 or so residents, with some saying their cars have been chipped or dented.
"There were 2- and 3-inch drop-offs in many of these places," she said. "It's not safe to have to drive with that kind of elevation change so severe in so many places."
The bumps won't be around much longer, Smith said. The $23-million, two-year project might be finished in six to eight weeks, ahead of the original Dec. 15 completion date, he said.
The final surfacing of U.S. 278 will begin this week, he said. The contractor, APAC Southeast Inc., will start paving the main road and then complete the transitions and side roads.
"Everything should be taken care of in the next week to month," he said of the bumps. "It will get better every night we can get out there and pave. But I think people will be really happy in the next month."
As the work continues, two lanes will remain open during the day on both sides of U.S. 278, but travel may drop to one lane on either side at night, he said. He advised drivers should use caution when entering the construction areas.
Video: Reporter Sarah Bowman demonstrates the terrific jolt drivers experience on one of the construction-related bumps on U.S. 278
Video: Photojournalist Delayna Earley captures drivers striking construction bumps on U.S. 278
- US 278 widening ahead of schedule; flyover, SC 170 projects progress, Beaufort County says, July 8, 2013
- US 278 widening to bring nighttime lane closures, November 26, 2011
- Bay Street paving grinds ahead in downtown Beaufort + video, September 3, 2013