A proposed bypass through several West Columbia neighborhoods that would demolish up to 236 homes “ranks toward the bottom of the list” of options for fixing Malfunction Junction, Lexington County Councilman Ned Tolar said Friday.
Tolar’s prediction came after what he said were discussions with state transportation officials about a a plan for a new road that would slice through five neighborhoods.
But state officials overseeing the road project declined to say if Tolar’s assessment is accurate.
“We’re still vetting the viability of all alternatives,” said Brian Klauk, the state engineer leading the team developing what will become a $1.5 billion package of improvements expected to be chosen in 2018.
The bypass is among 49 choices being examined to improve traffic flow around where I-20, I-26 and I-126 meet. State officials described the intersection as South Carolina’s worst choke point for commuters and commerce.
Two other paths for the bypass with less impact on neighborhoods also are under consideration.
Running a route through the neighborhoods would be very expensive, making that path “one of the least likely scenarios,” Tolar said. He has a personal interest in the decision because his home is among those that would be torn down for the proposed road.
Putting a road through the neighborhoods also would be “devastating” financially for West Columbia and Lexington 2 schools by reducing property tax revenue because of the loss of homes with higher-than-average values, he said. No estimates on the potential lost revenue was available Friday.
Tolar joins lawmakers, city officials and neighborhood leaders in opposing the route through neighborhoods.
The proposed bypass is one of two new roads being considered to alleviate the bottleneck where the three interstates meet. The other road would link I-26 in the Harbison area and I-77 near Blythewood.
Officials with the Congaree Riverkeeper are skeptical of both roads. Building roads across the Broad and lower Saluda rivers would hurt both the environment and recreation, they say.
The benefits, problems and impact on traffic of each option is being analyzed, with a list of semi-finalists for fixing the problem to be outlined by mid-September, Klauk said.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483