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DOT nixes one option for fixing Columbia’s ‘Malfunction Junction’

A Malfunction Junction improvement plan would destroy this neighborhood

The River's Edge is a West Columbia neighborhood overlooking the lower Saluda River. A Malfunction Junction improvement plan under consideration would obliterate the neighborhood to make way for those improvements.
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The River's Edge is a West Columbia neighborhood overlooking the lower Saluda River. A Malfunction Junction improvement plan under consideration would obliterate the neighborhood to make way for those improvements.

The S.C. Department of Transportation has dropped a plan to build a bypass to unsnarl “Malfunction Junction” that would have caused up to 236 West Columbia homes to be razed.

State Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, said he received a letter about the change from the department Tuesday morning.

“This is a tremendous victory for us,” he said. “And this was a community effort.”

The bypass was one of several options being considered by the DOT to alleviate congestion at the junction of I-20, I-26 and I-126. It would have diverted traffic away from the intersection, but the bypass also would have cut through several West Columbia neighborhoods including Quail Hollow and River's Edge.

“These are huge subdivisions and would have impacted a tremendous number of people,” Setzler said. “But they have now deleted the plan.”

In the letter, Deputy Secretary for Engineering Leland D. Colvin wrote: “We have received many comments from residents in your district as well as yourself regarding potential impacts to properties resulting from one or more of the alternatives under consideration.”

Fixing Malfunction Junction is the state’s top transportation goal. It is considered one of the most complex road projects in the department’s history. Improvements could cost as much as $1.5 billion and take up to 7 years to finish, according to preliminary estimates.

It’s playing catch-up on roads built in the 1960s and sporadically improved through 1997 as more neighborhoods and stores rose along the routes. Up to 133,600 vehicles a day travel through the intersection of the three interstates, traffic studies say.

The goal of the deleted plan was to lessen pressure on the intersection by diverting some traffic away from it.

In October, the agency held a public hearing on 49 proposals to fix the problem.

One of the more ambitious plans is to build a connector from the Harbison area across the Broad River to the Blythewood area to create a shortcut from I-26 to I-77. The route would run largely through undeveloped areas, skirting scattered neighborhoods.

Colvin said the project team will hold another public session Sept. 19 to discuss “reasonable alternatives.” The public will be able to learn about the plans from noon to 7 p.m. at the Columbia Conference Center, 169 Laurelhurst Ave., Columbia. The alternatives will be available on the department’s website Sept. 5.

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