Now that the flood waters largely have receded, aftershocks in the form of traffic congestion and unexpected delays are plaguing Midlands drivers. Stretches of road, where traffic usually flows, turned into elongated parking lots Tuesday.
Especially at rush hour.
“I was supposed to be at the (Richland County) courthouse at 9 a.m., but it took me 45 minutes to get into Columbia today,” said Laura Hudson, executive director of the S.C. Crime Victims’ Council. “Normally, it takes me 15.”
Hudson was one of thousands coming into the Capital City on Tuesday, hoping for a normal commute.
But, Hudson said, her drive from the Corley Mill Road area of Lexington was clogged at the Gervais Street bridge, which spans the Congaree River and connects West Columbia to Columbia’s Vista.
That bridge is one of a dozen or more major choke points on commuter routes, officials reported Tuesday.
“We knew that with things getting back to normal, we would feel the full impact of these (disrupted) traffic patterns,” Columbia police chief Skip Holbrook said Tuesday.
City police are working with the S.C. Department of Transportation to move traffic along as best they can as it winds around unsafe bridges, eroded roads and open sinkholes.
“Some locations have pretty significant damages you can see and may be closed for some time,” Holbrook said. “In other places, we can modify the closures in a way that eases the bottleneck.”
Officials are working to ensure there is clear signage and traffic signals about detours in an effort to lessen confusion among motorists, the chief said.
“Some folks get to a barricade and they really don’t know which way they want to go, and they end up going the way they didn’t want to go,” Holbrook said. “It gets all discombobulated. We’re working quickly, and we try to be responsive to the public when they bring things to our attention.”
National Guard members as well as police are stationed at detours, Holbrook said.
Columbia fire chief Aubrey Jenkins, whose 600 professional and volunteer firefighters and rescue personnel are deployed at 31 fire stations throughout Richland County, said his department sends out a Google map with troublesome roads and bridges marked each morning.
The map has been helpful particularly in finding trouble-free passages in the North Main Street, Monticello Road and Fairfield Road areas, Jenkins said.
“Rush hours do pose a problem for us to get through,” Jenkins said. “But, as always, we are using caution.”
Most motorists obey the law when they come up on a barricade.
But Monday night, a Columbia man driving a 1953 antique Morgan car rammed a police barricade in the 4500 block of Devine Street, just west of where Fort Jackson Boulevard becomes Rosewood Drive. The 55-year-old driver was charged with reckless driving and failure to stop for a blue light.
The Devine Street bridge at that location, a major commuter route, has been deemed unsafe and blocked to traffic for nine days.
In Richland County, some 113 roads and bridges remained blocked Tuesday, the S.C. Department of Transportation reported. In Lexington County, some 23 major roads and bridges remained out.
Some major routes were opening back up.
The Jarvis Klapman Boulevard bridge, which funnels commuters from West Columbia into and out of Columbia via Huger, Hampton and Taylor streets, reopened Tuesday afternoon. It had been used by the National Guard and engineers as a staging area for dumping large rocks into the Columbia canal to create a new dam.
Traffic jams didn’t snare everyone.
Columbia businessman Rusty DePass was driving on Beltline Boulevard at Midlands Technical College on Tuesday morning when he spotted a long line of traffic at a standstill on his left.
“My first thought was that someone got in an an accident,” said DePass.
Then, he realized traffic was stalled and backed up for a half mile or so around Midlands Tech because of the bridge-out detour where Devine Street becomes Garners Ferry Road.
“I was truly grateful I was on my way to somewhere else,” DePass said.
All of I-95 open now
- All lanes of Interstate 95, a major north-south traffic artery along the Eastern Seaboard, have been reopened, according to officials. The interstate’s northbound lanes in the Florence County area had been blocked for nine days.
- More than 4,000 man hours and 2,820 cubic yards of concrete – a total of nearly 300 truckloads – were used to repair the substructures of 13 I-95 bridges that cross over the Pocotaligo and Black rivers, as well as the Tearcoat branch, according to the S.C. Department of Transportation.
- Across the state, DOT reported 322 road and bridge closures on major and secondary roads.