Major improvement project slated for Florence’s Oakland Avenue

Published: November 29, 2011

Oakland Avenue, the long-neglected chief artery through north Florence, is finally going to get some attention.

Florence Mayor Stephen J. Wukela announced at a Tuesday press conference that state funds have been authorized for an approximately $400,000 fix up of Oakland, from the Martin Luther King Bridge to Wilson Road. The almost two-mile long strip will see new curb and gutter work, new asphalt paving and some drainage work completed.

In an interview, Wukela said the project would meet long-standing needs in the area.

“When I ran for mayor in 2009 and went door-to-door,” said Wukela, “there were two things, I heard: abandoned houses and Oakland Avenue. It’s time we got this done.”

The funds will come from a South Carolina Department of Transportation fund designated for Florence County road improvements. The county’s transportation committee approved the project earlier this month.

Wukela said the precise amount allocated, and the timetable for construction, won’t be known until SCDOT engineers appraise the project and produce an estimate later this year. City of Florence engineers have already weighed in with a rough estimate.

Area residents have long complained about the roads bumps and holes. Drainage issues following heavy rain has also been cited as a regular problem.

Wukela said the road has been passed over in the past, in large part because it was considered a city road an the City of Florence has no dedicated road funds. Road maintenance in South Carolina is handled mostly by the state and by individual county governments.

Wukela credited State Sena. Hugh K. Leatherman of Florence with opening the door to finding the funds for the project now.

“I credit our improving relationship for this,” said Wukela. “In contrast to what’s going on in Washington, we have people here crossing the aisles and getting things done.”

Wukela, who is running for a second term as mayor next year, is a Democrat. Leatherman, chairman of the S.C. Senate’s powerful Finance Committee, is a Republican.

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