092318 gateway monument

Artist's rendering of the new monuments at the Interstate 26-U.S. Highway 601 interchange.

A bright new look is planned for the intersection of Interstate 26 and U.S. Highway 601.

"We can do more landscaping and we can do more with the gateway, but without the support of the businesses and without property owners, it doesn't take shape," Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said in September.

Robinson said the improvements are designed to attract some of the approximately 90,000 vehicles that pass by the interchange each day to stop in Orangeburg and enjoy the city's amenities with hopes they will return.

"We are trying to create a boulevard," Robinson said. An example of what Orangeburg County envisions is Dave Lyle Boulevard in Rock Hill.

The effort to improve the corridor from U.S. 601 into Orangeburg is in its infancy, but there are early glimpses of what it could look like.

A mast arm traffic signal has been put in place near the newly upgraded I-26-U.S. 601 interchange. It was funded by the Lower Savannah Council of Governments and the S.C. Department of Transportation with federal funds and an approximately $80,000 county match.

About $400,000 in federal money has been approved to install a second mast arm as well as handicap-compliant sidewalks, paved crosswalks, planted medians and underground wiring at the intersection of St. Matthews Road and Redbank/Citadel roads.

There will be a local match of about $100,000 to help fund the project.

The entire upgrade project is estimated to be about $1.2 million.

There are plans to place mast arm traffic signals at the Cook Road intersection and, eventually, on down to the city of Orangeburg.

Two gateway monument signs have been built and erected by the interchange. ACE Landscaping and Development of Hilton Head constructed the monuments. The cost for both monuments was around $329,000

The monuments have both the county and city seals.

The monuments are similar to what is seen when motorists enter Rock Hill and Summerville.

The beautification efforts will eventually extend from Exit 145 all the way into Orangeburg. About $3.5 million has been set aside for the improvements through Orangeburg County’s capital projects sales tax.

As part of its effort to make the entrance to Orangeburg more attractive, Orangeburg County Council has examined the establishment of a gateway enhancement landscaping plan that would focus on the U.S. 601 corridor from Interstate 26.

The plan would cover routine maintenance such as watering the grass, mowing, lighting and litter control.

Robinson said the plan involves creating a distinct area, similar to the concept of a subdivision or homeowners association, where businesses and retailers would be collaboratively responsible for helping to fund the continued maintenance of the corridor.

"We are going to have to figure out a way to fund it," Robinson said. "That is not easy for County Council because that is additional revenue they have to generate or pull from somewhere else."

Robinson said whether the funding mechanism is an additional fee, the creation of a special purpose tax district or the use of accommodations tax funds has yet to be determined. He said the business community in the corridor will have to be engaged in the process.

Robinson said in Rock Hill, for example, accommodations taxes are used. In some cases, a property maintenance zone is created where property owners are required to maintain their establishments to certain standards.

"We can potentially do the exact same thing," he said. "We have accommodations funds that can be used for the exact same thing."

The gateway improvement project is a part of The One Orangeburg County Initiative, a grassroots effort to make the county a better place to live, work and play, ultimately attracting new industry and jobs. The initiative is supported by the Orangeburg County Development Commission.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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