Penny sales tax: Road projects

Columbia’s Broad River Road would see major investment

dhinshaw@thestate.comOctober 15, 2012 

Plans are in the works to widen parts of Broad River from Royal Tower Road towards Ballentine. Also the intersection of Rushmore Rd. and Broad River needs improvements.

KIM KIM FOSTER-TOBIN — kkfoster@thestate.com Buy Photo

  • More information Three numbers to consider 15 Rank among 62 roads needing major work 11,500 Average daily traffic at Royal Tower Drive 116 Number of wrecks at I-20 and Broad River Road, 2004-06 SOURCE: Central Midlands Council of Governments, Parsons Brinckerhoff

Each Monday this month, The State newspaper will take a closer look at some of the high-profile projects on Richland County’s construction list if voters approve an additional penny-on-the-dollar sales tax Nov. 6.

The project: Broad River Road

Three projects, taken together, place Broad River Road at the top of the county’s roads list with an $85.2 million investment.

The collision-prone interchange of Broad River Road and I-20 would be improved at a cost of $52.5 million;

• 4.6 miles of Broad River Road in Irmo, from Royal Tower Drive to the Peak interchange, would be widened to five lanes at a cost of $29 million;

• The intersection at Rushmore Road leading to Columbia High School would be improved at a cost of $3.7 million.

The details

First, the interchange at I-20 and Broad River Road – part of the problem people refer to as Malfunction Junction – creates a bottleneck.

“During peak hours, it backs up both on Broad River Road and coming off the ramps” of I-20, said Robert Moser, a Columbia transportation consultant with the Parsons Brinckerhoff firm.

“If you can make it more efficient, people may be more likely to get off and use that route rather than the interstate.”

A solution hasn’t been designed yet, but consultants said the ramps and the flow through dual signals at the interchange need improvement.

Secondly, people who live and work in Irmo are dismayed by the traffic that has developed in recent years along their end of Broad River Road. The county’s solution: widening 4.6 miles between Royal Tower Drive and I-26.

Broad River Road there would have two travel lanes in each direction and a center turn lane. Some intersections along the corridor would be upgraded, too, according to Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Four feet of pavement would be reserved for bike lanes in both directions, and five-foot-wide sidewalks would be added on both sides of the road.

Lastly, the plan sets aside money to improve the intersection of Broad River Road and Rushmore Road.

Changes could include additional turn lanes, traffic signal upgrades, pedestrian signals, sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes, the consultants said.

Why the interchange needs work

The average daily traffic along Broad River Road in the vicinity of I-20 ranges from 34,900 to 25,000 cars a day, making it one of the most congested corridors in Richland County.

It’s dangerous, too.

According to highway department data on file with the county’s consultants, I-20 at Broad River Road was the No. 1 crash site in Richland County between 2004 and 2006. More current information was not immediately available.

During those three years, 36 people were hurt in 116 collisions.

Motorists on Broad River Road, as it approached I-20, had fewer accidents: 14 people were hurt in 47 wrecks.

Why the road needs to be widened

Traffic from a new shopping center anchored by Walmart, along with new subdivisions and other businesses, can cause stop-and-go traffic along Broad River Road in the Irmo area.

“It certainly is a corridor where growth has been significant,” said Danny Hood, an Irmo Realtor. “And, from what I’m seeing, it’s going to continue.”

A traffic count last year on Broad River Road at Royal Tower Drive identified 11,500 cars a day traveling a road designed for 10,400. The road exceeded its design capacity in 1992, according to the Central Midlands Council of Governments.

Hood said the intersection at Koon Road can be especially trying.

And when traffic is diverted from I-26 because of an accident? “That is just an absolute nightmare,” he said. “It can turn a 10-minute drive into a 45-minute drive.”

But not everyone is convinced.

Richland County Councilman Bill Malinowski said the bulk of traffic continues out of town on Dutch Fork Road, which he considers in greater need of attention than the final leg of Broad River Road heading toward the Peak exit.

Why the intersection needs help

Rushmore Road is the main route to Columbia High School from Broad River Road.

Moser, the county’s consultant, said traffic tends to back up at the beginning and ending of the school day because there are not dedicated turn lanes.

Quotable

“I avoid it for two hours in the morning and I avoid it for two hours in the evening,” said Irmo resident Jon Richter, who hasn’t decided how he’ll vote on the penny sales tax despite the need he sees for improvements to Broad River Road.

“There’s a Walmart now. Ballentine is going ballistic. There’s an awful lot happening.”

Map: Broad River Road


View Broad River Road improvements in a larger map

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