SCDOT, Governor McMaster hold groundbreaking on years-long project to improve ‘Malfunction Junction’
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - One of the most heavily traveled interchanges in the Midlands is set to get a makeover.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) held a groundbreaking event Monday for a project that will rebuild and improve what’s known as ‘Malfunction Junction.’
This is the interchange at I-20, I-26, and I-126 on the northwest side of Columbia.
The project, which has been called Carolina Crossroads, will cost $1.7 billion and is slated to be the largest interstate improvement project in state history.
Construction is expected to last eight years until an anticipated 2029 completion of all five phases.
SCDOT Secretary Christy A. Hall said work on phases one and two will begin this month.
“You’ll see roadwork within the next two weeks starting to happen out here, and then it’ll just keep building every two years going forward,” she said. We have two massive contracts already under construction here. Eventually to where we’ve got the entire 14-mile corridor under construction.”
This interstate corridor was built in 1960.
Described as a “modern marvel” when it was built, Hall said it has “over time decayed to the point and performance where it has earned, rightfully so, the name of Malfunction Junction.”
According to SCDOT, this corridor sees more crashes than any other highway system across South Carolina.
“Our citizens deserve to drive on a road and an interchange where they don’t take their life at risk each and every day when they go through there,” said State Senator Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington.
Not much has changed with regards to the functionality of this infrastructure since the 1960s, Hall said.
“The demand, the requirements of the interchange to perform has increased, but the interchange itself hasn’t changed very much,” she said.
Hall said needed improvements were skipped over for years because it was deemed to be too difficult a project that would take too long and cost too much.
The modern redesign includes replacing cloverleaf loops to create an interchange that makes it easier for motorists to change highways.
In sum, the Carolina Crossroads effort will lead to 132 new lane miles, 14 widened interstate miles, 43 new bridges, and seven reconstructed interchanges.
Phase one of the plan includes reconstructing Colonial Life Boulevard at the I-126 interchange, while phase two will update the Broad River Road interchange at I-20 to improve traffic flow to the interstate. It also aims to lengthen I-20 westbound’s access to I-26 westbound to minimize congestion from cars changing interstates.
Rick Todd, President of the South Carolina Trucking Association, said all of the plans are welcome improvements.
“It will unlock a major, often hazardous and costly bottleneck,” he said. “So the business of trucking, freight and services, and our supply chain soldiers see this project as another step by Governor McMaster, by the General Assembly, with particularly dogged determination by Senator Setzler, and the Federal Highway Administration to keep our state moving.”
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Governor Henry McMaster said the improvements to Malfunction Junction were “a long time coming.”
“We are booming, we’re going to boom more the next year, next 10 years are going to be extraordinary, and this is a big part of it,” he said. “And in the words of the great Ronald Reagan, ‘the best is yet to come.’”
Once complete, SCDOT estimates that the project will save daily Midlands commuters 112 hours per year that they’d otherwise spend in traffic.
In addition to improving safety, SCDOT said another reason behind the effort is adjusting for population growth. Since the Midlands population is expected to grow 70 percent by 2040 and lead to increased traffic, the project is designed to accommodate that growth.
Hall said the passage of the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill will enable the state to move ahead with projects laid out in its 2013 infrastructure vision.
“This funding will come in and basically help deliver those projects in cooperation and coordination with our state funding, not really changing priorities just basically helping fund some of those and maybe possibly enabling us to look at some projects in the future and maybe pull them ahead slightly,” she said.
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