RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Transportation is encouraging the public to provide input ahead of a public hearing scheduled to be held on Aug. 23.
The Carolina Crossroads project is designed to "improve local mobility, enhance traffic operations by reducing existing traffic congestion while accommodating future traffic needs, improve freight mobility, improve safety in the corridor and improve system linkages," according to the project's website.
The project covers 14 miles of interstate and 12 interchanges including Interstate 20, Interstate 26 and Interstate 126 corridor.
On Friday, the SCDOT announced it will begin accepting public feedback in the form of email, mail and on the project's website. It also encourages the public to attend the input session, held Thursday, Aug. 23 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Columbia Conference Center.
Verbal comments will be heard at 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sept.17 is the deadline for all comments to be emailed, mailed or given online.
According to Carolina Crossroads project manager Brian Klauk, it signifies a major component of the DOT's ten year strategic plan and will help alleviate daily congestion along the corridor often referred to as "malfunction junction."
"One of the main things we wanted to do is remove the loops at I-26 and I-20, and replace them with directional ramps that allow higher speeds and prevent those conflicts of people trying to get on and off the interstate at the same point," Klauk said. "We're also proposing vehicles exit earlier and enter back onto the freeway where they're going at a later point so that reduces congestion and reduces conflict points.
The recommendation, referred to as "Alternative One" on the project's website, also includes adding at least one lane in both directions along I-26. It will also involve relocating the existing interchange at I-26 and Bush River Road to Colonial Life Boulevard and upgrading the interchange to make is accessible to all residents and businesses along Bush River Road.
Restructuring interchanges and additional lanes on I-26 will require the DOT to purchase several parcels of land near I-26 and Bush River Road. One homeowner, Donald Bishop, said he'll lose his home of 28 years to the project.
"We've all lived here forever and for the highway department to come in and say we got to redo the interstate and your property is part of it, I just feel like they not taking care of people like they used to," Bishop said.
Bishop said he has already purchased a new home a few miles away and will move out of his home on Fairhaven Drive by the end of the month. He estimates he'll lose $50,000 on his house when all is said and done.
"It's going to be too hard to come back over here and realize there's no house here," Bishop said. "It's going to be flattened just a couple months after I move out."
The DOT said it encourages property owners to reach out with concerns over the project. Klauk said only a handful of acquisitions have taken place so far, with more likely to come as the project nears construction.
Klauk said the project is on schedule and on budget. After all public comment is heard, the DOT will publish a report with any modifications to the recommended alternative as a result of public input. The report will likely be published by the end of 2018 or early next year.
Construction is slated to begin in 2020 with the project estimated to cost between $1.3 and $1.5 billion.
For more information on the Carolina Crossroads project, you can visit their website here.