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Property owners along I-26 worried, pleased; SCDOT presents plans for widening

ST. MATTHEWS – Property owners near Interstate 26 came out to a S.C. Department of Transportation public hearing to learn more about the planned widening of the interstate.

The state is planning to widen I-26 from south of Exit 125 at Old Sandy Run Road to Caw Caw Road interchange at Exit 136.

That will include the reconstruction of the interchanges along the path to a diamond design, meaning some landowners could see increased traffic closer to their property lines.

Allan Martin, who lives near the Exit 129 interchange, said the project will run right by his property. He said the new proposed exit is about 250 feet from his house.

“The question is: Do we move at this point in life?” Martin said during Thursday’s public hearing at the John Ford Community Center in St. Matthews.

“This is the first time I really found out what they are proposing,” he said.

Martin said, “I was hoping it would not get started until we died, but apparently they came up with some money recently.”

He has lived in his home for the past 40 years.

“We are surprised it has lasted this long at this exit where we don't have any commercial development,” he said.

Martin said SCDOT has told him about the possibility of putting a privacy fence in place to shield his property from the traffic.

“That will help,” he said. “It will create a lot of traffic close to the house for us.”

SCDOT proposes widening I-26 from the current four lanes to six lanes over this approximately 11-mile stretch, according to SCDOT Project Manager Adam Humphries.

Work on the $320 million project will begin in late summer of 2023 and will take about three to four years.

Bret Gillis, design consultant with Stantec, said the existing inside paved shoulders are about four feet wide and the slopes in the median are steeper than what many would like them to be.

After the work is complete, the lanes will be 12 feet wide and there will also be a 12-foot outside shoulder and a 10-foot inside shoulder.

The grassy median will remain in place.

Gillis said the project design will also aim to improve safety.

From 2015 until 2019, there were 1,652 crashes for this section of Interstate 26. Those crashes resulted in 374 injuries and six of the crashes were fatal.

He said over half of crashes were rear-end collisions. About 28% were single-vehicle crashes where people ran off the road.

“There are number of safety features built into the design of this project to avoid these crashes,” Gillis said.

In addition to the widening of the interstate, the project will replace three overpasses over I-26 and two interchange bridges at 129 and 136. The highway and interchanges will be open during construction.

Detours will reroute traffic at the overpasses, which have an average daily traffic count of about 1,000 cars. The roads will be closed for about 12 months to 18 months during the project, according to project officials.

The detours are anywhere between six to eight miles in length. Detours would impact traffic on Valley Ridge Road, Sunny Plain Road and Big Beaver Creek Road.

Interchanges will be reconstructed to improve the angles, there will be safer ramps and intersection sight distances will be improved, Gillis said.

The bridges will also have wider shoulders, helping to improve visibility at intersections.

The project will be funded through the 10-year gas tax increase program, the Rural Interstate Freight program and federal funds, Humphries said.

The project will be a design-build format where SCDOT does the design and the project will then be bid out.

Humphries said SCDOT has looked at a number of alternatives to reduce environmental impact.

Currently, the project would impact about 2.3 acres of wetlands and about 1,950 feet of a stream. He said SCDOT always seeks to avoid impact, then to minimize the impact and then tries to offset any environmental impacts.

Humphries said the work will largely be done within existing right-of-ways. The department will need to buy some right-of-way from about 46 tracts. They will be mainly at the interchanges.

Branham Branch Road, Calvary Church Road and Saylor Road are some examples of places where right-of-ways will need to be purchased, Humphries said.

“We will have to purchase some right-of-way in order to move those frontages away from the interchange,” Humphries said. “Currently the interchange itself and the frontage roads conflict with each other. Operationally, we are just looking to make the interchanges work better.”

Humphries said no home displacements will be required.

Most comments and concerns from the public have been in reference to the interchanges.

“We will not close the interchanges to construct it,” he said. “We will build the bridges off of their current alignment. The ramps themselves will stay in service as they are as we do construction.”

Humphries said there are some concerns about how the current frontage roads conflict with ramps.

“We are trying to address these frontages and get them away from the interchanges so you don't have someone traveling at a high speed conflicting with someone turning off at a lower speed,” he said.

Rod Boldt, who lives in the Sandy Run community off of Exit 125, expressed concerns about the possibility of traffic increasing near his house.

“That is going to be where the project starts,” Boldt said. “We are going to have a lot of traffic coming off of our exit there and taking these alternate routes.

“This is a problem area to begin with anyhow because this is where 26 drops down from three lanes to two anyhow. It is always a problem, especially during peak season when people are heading either to Charleston or down to Florida.”

Boldt said he is retired so it will not impact him a lot, but his wife still works and has to commute.

Boldt said he is happy about the project.

“I can't wait until they run three all the way to Charleston, to be honest. The traffic is just horrendous, especially during the summertime and the peak traffic season,” he said.

Boldt said he is not overly concerned about the traffic near his property.

“This is basically a two-lane country road,” Boldt said.

There are a number of businesses near the exit and no traffic lights. He said when people try to come out of the various businesses, it may be difficult with the increased traffic.

Sandy Run resident Robin Rucker said the widening of the intersections and the interstate has to be done.

“The accidents that we have on I-26 at or near U.S. 21 through mile marker 129 through 136, we’ve got to do something,” Rucker said. “It is almost to the point of every day traffic is backed up due to an accident.”

SCDOT previously determined the widening is a high priority project because of the state’s growth and increased traffic on I-26. In just the last decade, statewide traffic has increased by nearly 30%, with I-26 between Columbia and Charleston carrying more than 22 million vehicles per year.

The average daily traffic count on I-26 in Calhoun County was 50,940 vehicles a day in 2020, according to the SCDOT. The average daily traffic count on I-26 in Orangeburg County is 44,429 vehicles a day.

By 2045, the average daily traffic count is expected to be about 100,000 cars daily.

The next section of I-26 to be widened runs from Exit 136 to Exit 145, which will begin in summer or winter of 2025.

Earlier in September, Gov. Henry McMaster announced his proposal to spend coronavirus relief money on the widening of I-26 from Columbia to Charleston.

He hopes to be able to use $360 million of the $453 million the state expects to receive through the American Rescue Plan Act on the project.

Officials said the money would help expedite the widening project by at least six years.

State lawmakers have to approve the spending.

Comments will be accepted on the current widening project through Oct. 8. All formal comments received during the comment period will be considered and responded to if requested and will be included in the project record.

Participants can provide written comments in the following ways:

• Submit comments online at the project website: www.scdot.org/projects/press-releases.aspx

• Mail comments to Adam Humphries, SCDOT project manager at 955 Park Street, P.O. Box 191, Columbia, SC 29201

• Email comments to HumphriesAS@scdot.org


Local
editor's pick
Cordae stages HBCU takeover at SCSU; Grammy-nominated rapper visits campus

Grammy award-nominated rapper Cordae wrapped up his HBCU campus takeover, “Kickin’ it with Cordae,” last week in South Carolina State University's Bulldog Lounge.

The campus takeover, presented by Coca-Cola and Cxmmunity, was conducted among the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s (MEAC) eight member institutions from Sept. 14-21. As a part of the takeover, Cordae also partnered with each campus’s Esports program.

“Cordae had this idea that he wanted to be connected with HBCUs and play his unreleased music as he gets ready to drop it. So, his manager reached out to me and I said, ‘great’,” said Sonja Stills, chief of staff, chief operating officer and director of Esports for MEAC. “This was also a great opportunity for the MEAC to promote Esports and their programs at these campuses.”

At Tuesday's event, S.C. State students got an exclusive peek at some of Cordae’s new music from his upcoming album, “From a Bird’s Eye View”, and engaged in conversations about important topics. Because of the partnership with the Esports program, they also had an opportunity to play NBA2K against Cordae in a session called “Gaming, Music and Conversations with Cordae.”

MEAC added Esports to its arsenal through a partnership with Blaze Fire Games. Online tournaments are hosted through Blaze Fire Games, and participants battle against each other in games such as Rocket League, NBA2K, Madden and Super Smash Bros. Esports virtual learning opportunities also are available to all MEAC member institutions.

“This was a great collaboration – to have music and gaming, and also a great way for students to have a conversation and learn about Cordae,” Stills said. “Talking with Cordae – he’s very multifaceted, so the types of questions they’re asking are very intuitive to sustaining their future and leading a legacy.”

During the Q&A period, Cordae gave answers on how to be successful and taking advantage of opportunities. He encouraged students to do things like create a vision board and watch inspirational interviews and TED Talks for motivation.

“I get a lot of valuable information from the interviews I watch,” Cordae said. “Everybody’s path is different. So, it’s important for you to focus on what you’re doing and do your research on the things you truly want to do.”

Cordae, 24, got his start with the rap group, YBN, and soon after branched out to pursue a solo rap career. He released his first album, “The Lost Boy,” in 2019 and received a Grammy nomination for it in 2020.

Along with his passion for creating music, Cordae has an affinity for contributing to the success of HBCUs. Through his partnership with Disney’s Dreamer Academy and UNCF, Cordae is offering scholarships to HBCU students. Two of those scholarships are designated for MEAC students.

To learn more about MEAC and its upcoming events, please visit www.meacsports.com.


Crime-and-courts
breaking
North man guilty of sexually exploiting a child; judge suggests 10 years in psych hospital

A 19-year-old North man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

Kyle Michael Teran pleaded guilty on Sept. 22 before Circuit Judge Ed Dickson.

Dickson sentenced him to 10 years in prison, but noted, “The defendant appears to be a vulnerable adult. The court requests that the defendant be placed in Gilliam Psychiatric Hospital for his sentence.”

Gilliam Psychiatric Hospital is located on Broad River Road in Columbia.

Dickson gave Teran credit for time he spent on monitored house arrest prior to his sentencing.

Teran originally faced the charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, but pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual exploitation of a minor instead.

Orangeburg man shot in back

An Orangeburg man was shot in the back on Wednesday afternoon at First Street location, near the intersection with Sprinkle Avenue.

As part of Teran’s plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed two charges of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and two additional counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office arrested Teran on Feb. 10, 2019, when he was 17.

Deputies responded to a call from someone at a North residence around 8:40 a.m. that day after a man reported a missing person and a sexual assault.

The man told deputies he’d confronted a relative over photos Teran was said to have taken of a toddler.

The man sent Teran to his bedroom for the night, but Teran sneaked out of a window and ran away, according to the sheriff’s office.

Another witness reported that she and Teran were babysitting the child when she fell asleep for a few minutes.

She claimed that when she woke up, Teran was standing over the sleeping child taking photographs of the child’s unclothed body.

Acquaintances told Teran’s relatives where he was in Lexington County.

Once he was located and brought to Orangeburg, Teran allegedly admitted taking photos to upload to a pedophile website.

Teran forfeited a silver HP laptop and a black LG cellphone to the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office.

According to a court document, Teran admitted that the electronics he forfeited were used to commit crimes.


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