“A game changer for the region.” That”s how State Senator John Matthews describes the proposed interchange upgrade for Interstate 95 and U.S. Highway 301. The project would extend U.S. 301 to Old Number Six Highway near Naval Station Road on the outskirts of Santee. Twelve-million dollars has been identified for the project. The total cost of the interchange is projected to be between $30 and $40 million. Matthews says the interchange will allow the region to be more competitive by creating an atmosphere of greater economic development and job creation.
“If you’re at Santee, you’re about four hours from three of the fastest growing markets in the Southeast,” says the Democratic Senator. “You’re about four hours from Jacksonville, four hours from Atlanta, and four hours from Charlotte, so you are in the center. If you get on I-95, I-95 connects you with I-26, and I-26 connects you with I-77 and I-40. Also you have two railroads that run through the region and those railroads go to different markets. You clearly have an advantage logistically for moving goods and services throughout the Southeast.”
If the project plans remain on schedule the interchange could be completed by 2014.
The next step in the process is the performance of an environmental impact statement by the South Carolina Department of Transportation. Once completed, the study must be approved by the Federal Highway Administration. State and federal highway transportation officials have identified four possible options for the interchange. Matthews says any of the four would work from a logistical point of view.
“Any of those options would work well for us and help promote what we call our “Logistic Distribution Triangle.’ ” says Matthews. “The Triangle ties our industrial parks from the city of Orangeburg to Santee, from Santee to Bowman and St. George. That is the industrial triangle we are developing along with the intermotor port. The connector will connect all that together.”
Once the impact study is approved, transportation leaders would then announce the final choice for the location of the interchange, and hold a public hearing.
Matthews says the interchange would be a boon for the entire state because it will help the region around the Santee area with its inland port, which would work hand in hand with the expansion of the port in Charleston. Matthews says this will enhance the state’s overall effort to recruit more business and industry. “In today’s economy you’ve got to have an inland port so you can use your property in Charleston at the highest use value,” he said. “The inland port would serve as a bridge that will connect those two together. The point is if you’re going to store a lot of stuff and do a lot of low value distribution, you can’t house your goods on high value land like you have in Charleston. You have to have an intermotor port to make it work.”