I-26 widening project brings excitement, concern to residents

I-26 widening project brings excitement, concern to residents

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - If you travel I-26 every day heading east or west, then you know packing patience for the ride might be your best bet.

At least that's the case for B Kuy, a longtime Chapin resident, who travels I-26 to get to Columbia.

"Usually it will take me about an hour to get wherever I need to go," Kuy said.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation says there is a plan in place that aims to help with congestion on the interstate.

It's estimated that 71,700 people drive I-26 on a daily basis. By the year 2040, it's expected to increase to 136,200 people.

"If I leave at 5 p.m., I won't get home until about 8 p.m. because there is almost always an accident," Kuy said.

The same goes for Marcus Braswell, an Irmo resident who works at a nuclear power plant.

"We actually plan our days around the traffic on I-26," Braswell said.

The $300 million project expected to get underway by the year 2018 is supposed to help things flow a little smoother. Despite fixing the congestion, Kuy says the widening project will create other problems.

"The expansion is not a bad thing, it's got to happen but where are those people to go? It's so rural that putting a four-way highway on either side of a small town doesn't make sense" explained Kuy.

Kuy says the growth is spilling into her small town in Chapin.

"There is only one way in and one way out," Kuy said. "It's a big trap. If there is one accident, there is nowhere to go, there is nowhere to go."

The 16-mile widening project would stretch from Highway 176 in the Ballentine area to Highway 202 just off of the Little Mountain exit in Newberry County.

SCDOT said the project will improve safety at interchanges, bridge replacements, and overpasses. In addition, they will meet vertical and horizontal clearance.

"An extra lane will ease up the traffic a little bit but it won't fix it entirely," Braswell said.

SCDOT is hosting a public meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 23 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Chapin High School where residents can learn more about the project and give feedback.

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