I-20 construction in Northeast Richland on track to be complete by May

ccope@thestate.comFebruary 23, 2014 

— So how much longer will it last, you ask?

Officials say they expect to meet their May deadline to wrap up the widening of Interstate 20 north of Columbia in northeast Richland County.

The project began in October 2012 and is transforming the stretch just east of I-77 to just past Spears Creek Church Road by turning the four-laned interstate to into a six- laned one.

In addition to widening the highway – and after neighborhood leaders insisted – workers also are installing noise barriers on the west-bound side to shield nearby areas from the interstate noise.

That portion of the project should be completed next month.

Crews also are working on reconstructing the westbound middle and outside lanes, as part of the fourth of five stages, said Paul Miller, project manager.

The final stage of the overall project is expected to start around the beginning of April. Traffic will shift back to the outside of the west-bound lanes, Miller said. At that point, crews will be able to access the middle area and finish a permanent barrier separating traffic traveling in opposite directions.

The project is on track to be complete by May 24, said Allen Thompson, South Carolina Department of Transportation resident construction engineer.

Some residents who live near the construction do not enjoy traveling on the roads during the construction, said Doug Bridges, who lives in Woodcreek Farms.

“Particularly at night, for me, it’s scary,” he said.

And during the early-morning rush hour recently, his commute was doubled from 25 minutes to 50 minutes on the interstate, he said.

He has also noticed an increase in traffic on other roads in the area for commuters trying to avoid the construction, he said.

Still, he said, he’s excited about the completion of the project. “I know we’ll all feel very positive about it and enjoy it when it’s through,” he said.

And he hopes the sound walls will help tremendously with road noise, he said.

The construction of the sound walls was a learning experience, Miller said. It was a huge amount of work, and he had not built a sound wall of that magnitude, he said.

“It’s definitely the biggest one in the Midlands by far,” said Robert Dickinson, DOT district maintenance engineer.

The wall is much taller and used a different type of material than other walls, such as the one on Interstate 77 between Forest Drive and Fort Jackson Boulevard, he said.

The stretch of I-20 was chosen for the widening because of the amount of traffic that goes out primarily to Clemson Road and Spears Creek Church Road, he said. There is also a lot of development in the area, he said.

The project will cost a total of $77.3 million, with 97 percent of funds coming from federal programs and 3 percent from the state, according to DOT.

Key dates

March: Majority of sound wall construction completed

April: Next major lane shift

May: Construction should be completed

Paying for it

Total cost: $77.3 million

Federal money: 97 percent

State money: 3 percent

Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657.

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