CHEROKEE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — The South Carolina Department of Transportation announced plans Saturday to remove the construction “chute” on the Interstate 85 widening project in Cherokee and Spartanburg counties.
According to SCDOT, the construction contractor has been directed to remove the chute as quickly as possible in two phases. Each phase of removal is expected to take under 90 days.
In the first phase, construction will focus on widening work in southbound lanes between mile markers 81 and 86. Once widening is completed, the chute will be removed in that section.
The second phase will repeat the same work but for the section between mile markers 86 and 91.
SCDOT said it will negotiate with the contractor next week on the specific timeline for the chute removal. In addition, SCDOT announced Friday that the speed limit in the southbound lanes will be reduced to 45 mph. New speed limit signs were to be installed Saturday night, with enforcement to begin immediately.
The changes come following a crash Thursday afternoon that killed three people and injured six others. It happened in the construction chute near mile marker 90.
The Cherokee County Coroner later referred to the chutes as “death traps.”
“I think it’s a death trap, an absolute death trap of a concrete maze,” said Coroner Dennis Fowler. “I am not a traffic engineer, but I don’t think you have to be a traffic engineer to figure out this does not work.”
South Carolina Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said “all options are on the table” regarding possible changes to the construction zone. She said that the State Transport Police will also begin patroling the area to assist the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
SCDOT also said a national work zone safety expert will be brought in to review further safety enhancements.