The Buzz

THE BUZZ: SC agency using new (and nicer) name for Malfunction Junction

Yes, traffic has always been bad, the exit ramps too tight and drivers too twitchy. Malfunction Junction in the late 1990s.
Yes, traffic has always been bad, the exit ramps too tight and drivers too twitchy. Malfunction Junction in the late 1990s. FILE PHOTOGRAPH

It’s all about branding on South Carolina roads these days.

Some state senators call a proposed state gas-tax hike to help pay to fix highways a “fee increase.”

And now the S.C. Department of Transportation has adopted a new moniker for Columbia’s most notorious rush-hour bottleneck: the intersection of I-26, I-20 and I-126.

So, Malfunction Junction is not the most positive, hopeful name (and it’s likely many readers have called the area other words that can’t be mentioned in a family publication).

So DOT is now calling the corridor “Carolina Crossroads.”

To The Buzz, that sounds like the name of Darius Rucker’s next country album. But agency officials say they needed to give the intersection of highways a new, and nicer, name while developing public plans for a fix.

“It’s the crossroads for travel, commerce and commuters,” DOT program manager Brian Klauk said.

The name was not a one-man job scrawled on the back of a cocktail napkin.

S.C. DOT, the Federal Highway Administration and the state’s consultant on the project, HDR, collaborated to come up with Carolina Crossroads, he said.

No word on rejected names, but using the interstate numbers was out since that “would have been quite a mouthful,” Klauk said.

(For what it’s worth, our suggestion would have been “I-Sore” in honor of the three interstates.)

The state will spend three years and $10 million to develop solutions for upgrading Malfunc-, er, Carolina Crossroads. They could include additional lanes and ramps, Klauk said.

The first public meeting is 5-7 p.m. May 12 at Seven Oaks Elementary School in Columbia. (Can’t make the meeting? DOT will have information on demand through May 27 at www.scdotcarolinacrossroads.com.)

Klauk insisted folks at his agency call the intersection “Carolina Crossroads,” though The Buzz suspects there’s a jar at DOT for employee to drop quarters if they use the “M” word.

As for the public adopting the new name, “That would be nice,” Klauk said.

The anonymous skies

The race for Volvo’s U.S. plant took to the skies last week with officials from the finalists in South Carolina and Georgia flying to an airport near the automaker’s North American headquarters in New Jersey.

S.C. state plane manifests released after the trip listed state Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt, his top deputy and the agency’s incentives and legal chiefs among the 11 passengers.

Seven passengers were labeled “confidential.”

The Buzz knows at least one of them was Gov. Nikki Haley, whose office confirmed she flew on a state plane on the same day.

So we asked the commerce department for the names of other public officials on the trip.

The agency put the brakes on that request.

A spokesman cited a budget amendment that reads: “(P)assengers flying with an appropriate official of (State Law Enforcement Division) or the Department of Commerce whose confidentiality must, in the opinion of SLED or the department, be protected shall be listed in writing on the flight log as ‘Confidential Passenger SLED or the Department of Commerce.’ ”

We’ll take that as score one against the open (records) skies.

2016 in S.C.: Largest GOP gathering yet

South Carolina’s largest single-day gathering of announced and potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates takes place Saturday in Greenville.

Depending on how you count ’em, up to 11 White House wannabes are speaking at the S.C. Freedom Summit sponsored by Washington-based political advocacy group Citizens United.

Confirmed for Saturday are: retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Also coming are a pair of other presidential testers: Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn; former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton; and New York real estate mogul Donald Trump.

The event at the 2,100-seat Peace Center, meant to allow grassroots activists hear from conservative leaders, is sold out, organizers said.

But there will be plenty of access for those who can’t make it.

C-SPAN will air the forum live, and more than 150 media organizations – one for every would-be GOP candidate – have sought credentials.

A White House dinner date

Actor Alan Rickman talks kind of like he does in the “Harry Potter” movies, The Buzz found out during the White House Correspondents Association dinner last week in Washington.

“I don’t like the word self-(pause)-ie,” Professor Snape said when a visiting reporter asked for a snapshot. “You will need some ... (pause) ... one else to take the pho .. .(pause) ... to.”

The Buzz scored a coveted ticket to the annual event, mixing top Washington journalists with movie, TV and sports stars and the president. (A shout out to Steve Thomma at the McClatchy DC bureau for the invite.)

About the only South Carolina connection The Buzz spotted at the dinner was former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who had flown back from the S.C. Democratic Convention earlier Saturday to make the event. (Maybe he regretted coming after becoming the butt of jokes in routines by both President Barack Obama and dinner entertainer Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live.”)

The Buzz hovered around the red carpet. We got there after actor Bradley Cooper and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo arrived, but we saw actresses Ashley Judd and Jane Fonda, tennis great Billie Jean King and (insert your own description) Martha Stewart.

We sat near actresses Lucy Lui and Connie Britton during dinner. (And some journalists. But we sit near reporters every day.)

There is a point to having the $300-a-ticket dinner.

Proceeds go toward scholarships. Among the recipients was Brandi Montgomery, a Howard University broadcast journalism major from Hopkins.

When Montgomery was recognized at the dinner, The Buzz is pretty sure we heard her zing a one-liner at O’Malley.

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