LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Drivers who use Interstate 20 East in Lexington County will encounter major lane changes beginning this weekend, as the South Carolina Department of Transportation begins work on the next phase of its I-20 widening project.
The shift will begin Saturday, Nov. 16 and will take three days to complete. The new traffic shift will affect eastbound I-20 traffic in Lexington from SC-6 to U.S. 378 and will not affect westbound traffic.
The shift will split the eastbound motorists into two separate lanes of traffic, each bordered by concrete barriers. The right line will have access to all existing exits, but the left lane will be considered an express lane, bypassing the SC-6 and U.S. 1 exits. Drivers in the express lane will be able to access the U.S. 378 exit.
The shift comes as work begins on removing and reconstructing the existing two eastbound travel lanes and replacing the eastbound bridge over Meat Plant Road. Drivers will be using the two newly constructed inside lanes to navigate around the construction work.
The traffic split will take place around mile marker 53.5, not far from Longs Pond Road. It will end at mile marker 60, not far from the U.S. 378 exit.
“As we know, Lexington County is certainly a very growing county in South Carolina and this is part of the secretary’s 10-year plan to eliminate some of the pinch points across South Carolina,” said Leland Colvin, an engineer with SCDOT.
The project is part of the department’s 10-year plan afforded by the passage of the Roads Bill passed in the state legislature. The entire project spans 11 miles and has seen its completion date delayed several times. Engineers expect the eastbound lane shift to last about 12 months before identical work will begin in the westbound lanes.
The project began in 2016 and is expected to be completed in 2021, according to Colvin. It is valued at $102 million.
Data from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety reveals the number of traffic accidents has increased as a result of the ongoing construction.
In 2015, before construction began, there were 383 total collisions between S-204 and U.S. 378. In 2018, that number was 504. One person was killed in 2015 along that same stretch, compared to four people who died in 2018.
“Oftentimes what we see is improper lane change crashes, where a tractor-trailer might move over on somebody and strike them or we see people in a hurry who weave in and out of traffic when there really isn’t anywhere to go,” said Master Trooper David Jones. “People really need to put down the phone and watch their speed, because we’ll be out here watching for people not following the law.”
The SCDOT said some of the barriers that run along with eastbound traffic, closest to where construction will be taking place, will be movable in the case of a crash. It will allow first responders to gain access to the scene of the crash. Traffic can also be rerouted into another eastbound lane if the crash creates a lengthy backup.