The South Carolina Department of Transportation plans to widen Interstate 26 from Columbia to Charleston by making it three lanes in each direction.
The project is part of the Rural Interstate Freight Mobility Program approved by the state Transportation Commission last week. It is designed to improve freight movement throughout rural interstates.
“The movement of freight is huge,” Deputy Secretary for Intermodal Planning Jim Feda, Jr., said. “If South Carolina wants to continue to be economically competitive with our neighboring states, we have to look forward to make improvements on the freight network. And those rural interstate segments are a big part of that.”
SCDOT said trucking remains the primary mode for freight travel in South Carolina. The agency projects truck traffic will grow by more than 60 percent the next two decades.
“Especially today with the manufacturing process relying on just-in-time deliveries and if we can ensure a reliable, efficient freight network in this state, it’s just going to make South Carolina that much more attractive for new businesses to relocate here,” he said.
Under the plan, I-26 would be widened between Exit 125 in Calhoun County (Old Sandy Run Rd) to Exit 187 in Berkeley County (Ridgeville Road).
“That would close the gap on 26 from Columbia down to Charleston giving at least six lanes of traffic, three lanes each direction,” Feda said.
The I-26 project is expected to cost $1.8 billion, which includes “reworking” the interchange with I-95.
Besides I-26, the plan includes four other projects.
“This program also allows us to begin the much-needed widening on I-95,” Feda said. Plans are to add a third lane in each direction starting at the Georgia state line northward to Exit 33 at U.S. Highway 17 near Yemassee.
“Being able to start the widening process on I-95 is huge,” he said. “The department receives so many complaints and most of them are from out-of-state travelers but there’s also a desire from within the state to see I-95 widened.”
SCDOT anticipates the I-95 widening will cost $1.2 billion.
Other projects include adding a lane in each direction on Interstate 85 from the Georgia state line to Exit 19, Clemson Boulevard.
“Once that is done that will pretty much take care of I-85 all the way through the state,” Feda said.
A third lane will be added in each direction on I-77 from Exit 65 (SC Highway 9) in Chester County to U.S. 21, exit 77 in York County.
1. I-26 from Old Sandy Run Road (exit 125) to I-95 – 56,242 vehicles per day (11,168 trucks)
2. I-95 from the Georgia state line to US-17 (exit 33) – 51,075 vehicles per day (8,381 trucks)
3. I-26 from I-95 to Ridgeville Road (exit 187) – 39,540 vehicles per day (8,115 trucks)
4. I-85 from the Georgia state line to US-76/SC-28 (exit 19) – 44,867 vehicles per day (10,781 trucks)
5. I-77 from SC-9 (exit 65) to US-21 (exit 77) – 52,650 vehicles per day (6,947 trucks)
(information provided by SCDOT)
Money for the projects will come from the gas tax increase passed by the state legislature last year. The current maintenance tax credit included in the law is set to sunset in 2023. Once the tax credit expires, the revenues from the gas tax are expected to be about $114 million per year.
Work is expected to begin in 2023. SCDOT is planning to receive $110 million for the project: $80 million from the anticipated tax revenues and $30 million in federal funding exclusively used for freight improvements.
“It’s going to take years,” Feda said. “We estimate 10-15 years to complete these five segments that were approved by the commission, if not longer.”