Traffic backs up south of Columbia as motorists wait to merge into the overburdened Interstate 26 intersection near Gaston. (Photo/James T. Hammond)
By James T. Hammond
Published June 25, 2012
The South Carolina Department of Transportation is soliciting interest from design-build contractors for the widening and rehabilitation of Interstate 26 in Lexington and Calhoun counties.
The DOT’s document on the scope of the project can be found on the state highway agency’s website.
South Carolina business leaders, including state Chamber of Commerce Otis Rawl, have described the long-overdue improvements to I-26 between Columbia and Charleston as one of the most pressing logistics issues facing the state.
Average daily traffic counts on the busy interstate have soared.
On many segments of I-26, average daily traffic volumes increased five-fold over the 34-year history of the highway. In recent years, the heaviest traffic is near the I-20/I-26 junction in the Columbia area, with 137,000 daily vehicles reported on average, and near the I-26/I-526 junction in Charleston, with 133,500 vehicles.
In Lexington County, average daily traffic counts have soared to 137,000 vehicles from just 20,200 in 1969 and 85,200 in 1989.
The proposed improvements include replacement of the westbound bridge over the CSX Railroad and a bridge jacking at the overpass of Old Wire Road. The widening of I-26 would extend from mile marker 115 at U.S. 321 to exit 125 at Sandy Run — a 10-mile stretch of the interstate — to accommodate three lanes in each direction by widening to the median.
A further 11 miles, to mile marker 136, will be resurfaced as part of the project.
In a statement issued by DOT today, the agency said “the widening of I-26 near Columbia from milepost 115 to near milepost 125 is currently scheduled to move forward in a design-build contract later this year. This is based on federal funding from Washington continuing at present or increased funding levels.”
The DOT said it is seeking “letters of interest and current resume of qualifications from all interested parties experience in all phases of highway bridge design and construction to services for the widening and rehabilitation” of the heavily burdened stretch of I-26 between Columbia and Orangeburg.
The deadline to submit the letters of interest and other requested documents is 2 p.m. July 13. The documents must be submitted to Susie Bender at SCDOT headquarters, 955 Park Street, Room 334, Columbia.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly referenced a public hearing to be held in July. That hearing was held in 2011.