COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Changes could be coming to parts of Interstate 26 in Lexington and Richland counties, but don't expect them anytime soon. The South Carolina Department of Transportation is considering widening I-26 near the St. Andrews Road area, but there's a lot of work that has to be done first.
If the words "malfunction junction" make you cringe, you're not alone. The Interstate 20 and Interstate 26 interchange near Columbia has long been an area of headaches for commuters and now officials want to do something about it.
It's a hot spot for shopping in the Midlands, but getting to Harbison Boulevard can be a bit sticky. So can the commute from Irmo to downtown.
Tereka Brown works nearby, and Tuesday she made a Target run at the mercy of the gridlock. "If I need to come over here per se, that's the only thing I do on my lunch hour," she said. "I can do limited things cause I'm not sure how traffic will be."
DOT says they see the problem that stretches all the way toward downtown. Engineer Ron Patton says DOT has a loose plan on how to fix it.
I-26 could get extra lanes starting at Broad River Road. A two-year widening project would add a lane on both sides of the interstate all the way to St. Andrews Road.
They're also discussing making an inside lane near "malfunction junction," a carpool lane all the way to Broad River that would be designed to encourage more than people to ride together.
There are no firm plans yet, just talk. "No meetings scheduled right now, all we're doing is getting the word out that we're getting ready to move forward on this design," said Patton. "Once those meetings start, we want people to come to those meetings."
So why spend the money now, when bridges and roads need repair? "Most of our programs are on resurfacing, interstate rehabilitation but we cant completely ignore interstate widening."
Patton says they've got miles to go with a skinny budget. Public input meetings won't start until 2012, with widening beginning after that. Access carpool lanes would come even later.
$8.5 million in funding has been identified for Fiscal Year 2011. Construction of the project will be moved forward based on available funding.
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