Ask any Orangeburg driver where most accidents occur and he or she is likely to tell you at the intersections along the U.S. 21 Bypass.
Those crossroads are plenty dangerous and account for lots of crashes, but a very different intersection – and “different” is an operative word -- has the distinction of being annually among the worst. It's past time to do something about it.
Consider the intersection and its characteristics. Think about merging from Russell Street into the traffic on John C. Calhoun Drive (U.S. 301 South) just beyond the Edisto Memorial Gardens. You crane your neck leftward and backward to watch for traffic on Calhoun Drive heading toward Bamberg. You can't see very well, and at the same time the vehicles behind you are in the same routine, everyone rolling pretty rapidly toward a merge – that is not a merge. The result is accidents, many of them cars on Russell being hit from the rear. Other, generally worse, accidents occur when the merging car moves out in front of an oncoming vehicle on Calhoun that is moving at a generous rate of speed.
A previous plan for changes at Russell and Calhoun went by the wayside, with city leaders not convinced of its merits and controversy arising about the plan putting an end to a Confederate monument at the site. The granite marker honors Confederate troops who died fighting against Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops.
If making the needed changes means the monument erected by Sons of Confederate veterans must go, it’s hard to see even its most ardent supporters arguing against improvements to prevent crashes.
As reported by T&D Staff Writer Gene Zaleski in obtaining information from the S.C. Department of Transportation, the most likely scenario includes creation of an acceleration lane for traffic traveling from Russell onto U.S. 301.
Such a plan would require widening both the larger bridge on U.S. 301 over the North Fork of the Edisto River and the smaller bridge over the river's overflow area, he said.
Plans could also include lengthening U.S. 301’s left-turn lane for northbound traffic turning onto Russell Street.
The cost is estimated at $22 million. The project likely would go out for bids around December 2020.
The first steps have already begun. SCDOT issued a public notice on Dec. 17 of its plans to conduct topographic surveys, subsurface exploration and environmental studies for the planning, design, property acquisition and construction of the project.
Property owners have yet to be advised of projected impact, but more land area is going to be needed for changes. Owners and anyone else will get a chance to address the plan at public hearings.
As the intersection and Calhoun Drive in general get busier and busier, the first priority must be changing the present poor design to enhance safety.