Prospects for Lexington road fix improve

tflach@thestate.comJune 28, 2013 

— The outlook is brighter for improvements aimed at easing congestion at a busy Lexington intersection, officials said Friday.

An end to a year-old stalemate with nearby landowners over donation of frontage means two more blocks of U.S. 378 near I-20 and Corley Mill Road will be equipped to carry more traffic shortly, officials said.

“It’s a big move forward finally,” town Mayor Randy Halfacre said of the agreement.

State transportation officials plan to restripe that section of U.S. 378 to provide three lanes of traffic each way instead of two before nearby River Bluff High School on Corley Mill opens Aug. 19.

Extra lanes and traffic signal changes are a partial fix, traffic planners say.

But the second part of the $3.5 million package – vital to easing bottlenecks at the intersection – probably won’t occur before spring and perhaps not until summer 2014. That will mean commuters can expect some headaches at the intersection for months.

Still, the initial breakthrough with landowners opens the way for a subsequent deal on additional frontage soon, allowing placement of a traffic circle on Corley Mill and a wider side road off it that diverts traffic to the west of the intersection, officials said.

“The cards are lined up for that to happen,” County Council chairman Bill Banning of West Columbia said.

Other council members are more cautious but optimistic about that prospect.

“If they (the landowners) are OK on one, I think they’ll have the same attitude on the rest of the project,” Councilman Johnny Jeffcoat of Irmo said.

State traffic counts estimate 30,000 vehicles travel through the intersection daily, making it among the busiest in the Midlands.

Enrollment at the new school exceeding 1,400 will add traffic there, particularly at morning rush hour once classes begin. The number of students is forecast to be 2,000 within three years.

Town police may direct traffic to lessen bottlenecks in the area until all road improvements are finished, Halfacre said.

“It’s critical to assure safety there,” he said. “We’ll do what we have to do.”

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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