A federally-funded project to widen I-526 in the seven-mile stretch from the Rivers Avenue interchange to the Paul Cantrell Boulevard interchange is underway. The project does not impact stalled plans to extend I-526 to Johns Island and James Island.
The project is a collaborative effort between the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration. The first phase is conducting an Environmental Assessment (EA), which is expected to take three years. The EA includes public meetings and surveys, which may be completed at www..526LowcountryCorridor.com. The initial meeting was held at West Ashley Advanced Studies Magnet School at the former Middleton High School campus.
SCDOT project manager Joy Riley states that the intent of the project is to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety. Vehicle traffic for the project area in 1992 was estimated at 50,000 trips per day. By 2014, the traffic increased to 78,000 trips per day. It is projected to increase to 140,000 trips per day by 2040.
As traffic has increased on I-526, there has been a steady uptick in the number of accidents. In addition to adding an eastbound and westbound lane, the project will address reconfiguring the seven interchanges along the seven-mile stretch. The Rivers Avenue and I-26 merge interchanges are of particular concern. The project is expected to be completed by 2024.