SCDOT held a public information meeting on the I-26 Widening Project on Thursday, October 13. The I-26 Widening Project proposes to improve the capacity and safety of the I-26 corridor from roughly exit 85 (SC 202) to exit 101 (US 176). This will involve adding an additional lane in each direction as well as interchange improvements.
I talked with Michael Hood, Assistant Program Manager with SCDOT, about the project and wanted to share some information.
Exit 97 Improvements
I asked Mr. Hood how this project would improve the safety and capacity of the exit 97 interchange. SCDOT is still in the preliminary phase of the project, so they do not have details on the design. However, he expects the interchange to be reworked completely, including reworking of side road traffic that currently flows into the ramps. Mr. Hood indicated that under current federal standards, roads should not intersect with the ramps.
I expressed concern over the capacity and safety of the interchange, noting the amount of traffic that uses the interchange and the amount of congestion that we experience on a daily basis. I also pointed out the need to use the emergency lane as a second lane on the west-bound exit ramp to avoid traffic backing up onto I-26.
I stressed that this interchange has been over capacity for a good 10 years and has only gotten worse with the nuclear plant expansion and growth in the Chapin and Ballentine areas.
I asked if additional interchanges would be added along I-26 to help pull the Ballentine and Chapin traffic off of US 176. I personally believe an interchange should be added to Old Hilton Road to help pull traffic away from Broad River Road. Mr. Hood said there currently are no plans to do so and he didn’t expect this corridor to qualify for an additional interchange under federal standards. This corridor is classified as rural and there is a minimum distance requirement between interchanges in rural areas. Adding an interchange between exit 91 and 97 would not meet that minimum distance requirement. He also mentioned that adding more interchanges, particularly close together, can do more harm than good.
Broad River Road
This project will not bring significant improvements to the capacity and safety of US 176 in the area of our community. Mr. Hood said Richland County is handling a project to expand Broad River Road’s capacity. However, it appears this Richland County Penny Tax project only covers expansion of Broad River Road from Royal Tower Road to the Peak exit interchange as noted on page 10 of the current project document. And it seems that this project has not had any momentum in quite some time. I will need to investigate this more.
I was disappointed to learn that there is no coordination between Richland County and the SCDOT. Mr. Hood told me that Lexington County is designing the I-26 exit 91 interchange as they have plans to widen Columbia Avenue. SCDOT is working with them to coordinate with the I-26 widening project. There is no such coordination between Richland County and SCDOT on exit 97.
Submit Your Thoughts and Concerns
I am late on posting this, but you can still submit comments and suggestions to SCDOT. You must act quickly! I would email Mr. Hood at this point.
SCDOT are seeking initial public comments and suggestions on this project through October 28, 2016. Please take a moment to submit your concerns and suggestions. You can submit them to Mr. Hood in several ways:
- Email: email@example.com.
- Mail: Mr. Michael Hood, P.E., SCDOT, PO Box 191, Columbia, SC 29202-0191.
There will be additional public meetings as they work through the process of implementing this project. It is important that we provide SCDOT, Richland County, and our representatives with feedback on the congestion and safety issues around our community.