$1.5 million in state funding could go toward lane reduction project along Columbia’s Devine Street

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Published: May. 24, 2023 at 7:39 PM EDT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - $1.5 million in state funding could soon be going toward making Columbia’s Devine Street corridor a little less treacherous for drivers.

A budget earmark championed by Rep. Seth Rose, (D) Richland, proposes to take the stretch of road from Five Points to Millwood Avenue by Dreher High School from four lanes to two lanes, with a center turn lane.

A bike lane and parking improvements are also being considered with a focus on safety.

“I have heard from constituents nothing but excitement since this was announced,” Rose said. “That $1.5 million is going to be allocated to the Department of Transportation, but it will not be spent until we have public input.”

Rose said the Devine Street Association made a push for the funds after hearing about another project that he helped advance: $5 million in improvements along Harden Street in Five Points.

That project, which Rose believes will be transformative for the area, will get underway sometime this fall or winter, and will give Five Points “the village feel it deserves.”

Rose said he has heard from constituents who have lost mirrors while parked along the street’s angled spaces.

“This is something that I’m passionate about is making House District 72, downtown Columbia, more walkable, more bikeable, more pedestrian-friendly and this is for our community.”

Jennifer Suber, the marketing coordinator for the Devine Street Association, said there has not been any significant investment along this stretch of road in more than two decades.

“I’m not an expert in traffic, I rely on the experts that work for the Department of Transportation,” Rose said. “The DOT told me, the experts told me, ‘Seth, to address the issues and concerns of the neighborhoods, the merchants, the parking issues, we need to have $1.5 million.”

Among the issues with its current design is that when these parking spaces were put in place, cars were much smaller and large SUVs were not on the roads.

Cars often pull up on the curb to avoid getting hit.

“When they came out with the Expeditions and the Suburbans and everything, that’s a big car to be driving down this with four lanes taking up,” David Jones, who lives nearby Devine Street, said. “My daughters didn’t like driving down this road when they were learning and everybody would take Blossom Street because it was just easier.”

Some businesses along Devine have paid out of pocket to have sidewalks redone.

Stacey Paysinger, manager at the women’s clothing boutique Slate, said these efforts would provide more of a sense of security for her customers, and help deliver more business.

“Just the access and ease of parking and knowing that their mirror is not going to get side-swiped and that they can get in and out of their cars safely because people do also speed down Devine Street,” she said. “I know they put in a lot of stop lights and all of that to help with that, but people still do speed so I think it would definitely increase traffic for us.”

Governor Henry McMaster still must sign off on the budget earmark to make it official.

If it were to be approved, Rose said the South Carolina Department of Transportation would conduct a study to consider the best path forward, and there would be public input sessions likely sometime this fall before the project begins.

Members of the community and local business owners will be able to voice their opinions about the plans at these meetings.

In addition to the safety improvements, Suber said the Devine Street Association would also like to see some aesthetic ones and have its street lights replaced.

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