South Carolina drivers should expect congestion this Thanksgiving as more than half a million state residents travel for the holiday.
And while flood repairs will continue through the holidays, state transportation officials are trying to keep the lanes of traffic flowing.
From noon Wednesday through Monday, state transportation officials are prohibiting lane closures for construction projects that are not emergency- or flood-related. For example, the Interstate 26 widening project could continue, but lanes must stay open to traffic.
State transportation officials have not yet released a cost estimate for repairing the 541 state roads and bridges damaged by floodwaters, but expects to soon. “Once we finish our review of the numbers, we will release them,” said acting Transportation Secretary Christy Hall on Tuesday. “We’re still on target for a release around the Thanksgiving time frame.”
At least 468 roads and bridges have reopened after sustaining damage from last month’s historic flooding.
Another 11 roads were set to reopen by Thanksgiving, transportation officials said, adding six will meet Thursday’s deadline and five others will be delayed until next week.
About 60 S.C. roads and bridges that remain closed are scheduled to reopen later. They include eight heavily trafficked routes around the state: Wilson Boulevard, Bluff Road and Congaree Road in Richland County; Saint Paul Road, U.S. 301 and Sumter Highway in Clarendon County; U.S. 176 in Newberry County and Cade Road in Williamsburg County.
Officials reopened Lower Richland Boulevard on Tuesday, good news for residents along that roadway, said state Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland.
The road runs through Hopkins, an area hit hard by flooding.
“There are people who have had to travel as much as 20-30 minutes or more out of the way in order to get to work or to get back home and some even to get to their churches on Sunday,” the Richland Democrat said.
Heavy traffic expected
Holiday drivers should expect some congestion. About 592,000 S.C. residents will drive to their destinations around the holiday, AAA Carolinas estimates.
From Wednesday through Sunday, the S.C. Highway Patrol will increase enforcement of seat belt and child-restraint violations, speeding and impaired driving, the agency said.
Traffic on major S.C. Interstates 95 and 26 may slow to a near standstill during peak travel times.
The interstate worsens as drivers cross over the state line from Georgia, said state Sen. Tom Davis, a Republican who lives in Beaufort, not far from the heavily trafficked interstate. “As you see the nice sign welcoming you to South Carolina, one of the things that greets you is four lanes instead of six,” Davis said.
State Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun, has roughly 20 miles of Interstate 26 in his district. In years past, traffic has been a mess around the Thanksgiving holiday on the interstate, Ott said.
The Sunday following Thanksgiving will likely be the worst day for traffic with everyone trying to get back home, he added.
Ott applauded the decision to halt construction work and keep lanes open. “With the increased traffic, you don’t want to put ... the workers at any greater risk than they already are,” Ott said. “At the same time, if you can prevent any type of backups or congestion, (that’s a) good thing.”
Thanksgiving roads deadline
Six of 11 closed roads estimated to be reopened by Thursday are on schedule. Five should reopen next week.
Opening by Thanksgiving:
- Hotel Street and Sumter Highway in Clarendon County
- Friendfield Road in Florence County
- Ottawa Trail/Natchez Street and Woodberry Road in Lexington County
- Foxworth Mill Road in Sumter County
Opening Dec. 4:
- Rocky Grove Road in Aiken County
- Home Branch Road in Clarendon County
- Hill-Harrell Road in Florence County
- Sandlewood Drive and Windy Road in Lexington County
SOURCE: S.C. Department of Transportation