Anyone relying on the King Street exit from I-26 should prepare for some serious changes. The downtown exit ramp is expected to be closed into the summer of 2019 as construction continues on the city’s $146 million drainage improvement project. The closure will begin the evening of Mon. Jan. 9.
According to the city, this phase of the drainage project will include the construction of two large tunnels placed as far as 150 feet underground. Shafts will be built to allow workers to access the tunnels and transport the equipment required to construct the tunnels, which will be approximately 12 feet in diameter. The location of one of these shafts is what has led to the decision to close the King Street exit ramp during this phase of the drainage project expected to last until 2019. The city is urging drivers to detour by using the upper peninsula Rutledge Avenue exit, Crosstown Rutledge Avenue exit, or downtown Meeting Street exit. (As NoMo-adjacent, we might also suggest the Morrison Drive / E. Bay Street exit.)
“We are excited to begin phase 3 of the Spring/Fishburne Drainage Improvement Project — the largest drainage project in the city’s history,” said the senior engineering project manager for the city Steven Kirk. “At the completion of all five phases, approximately 260 acres will experience direct drainage improvements, positively impacting nearly 20 percent of the peninsula. This phase, which includes the construction of massive stormwater tunnels, is a critical component of long-term drainage relief in the area.”
The two tunnels planned to be constructed during this phase of the project will eventually connect to a pump station, which will be built later in the process. Plans for the station include three separate pumps, each capable of handling 120,000 gallons of stormwater per minute.
As sea-level rise has led to increased flooding in Charleston, this newest phase of the drainage project comes as the most recent effort by the city to remain above water. The city’s official “Sea-Level Rise Strategy” outlined much of the area’s long-term plans to prepare for the project 180 days of tidal flooding that Charleston could experience by 2045. As a part of the Septima Clark Parkway grant application in 2009, it was estimated that each significant flooding events costs the area approximately $12.4 million. Over a 50-year period, the city estimates that flooding would cause $1.53 billion in damage and lost wages if left unchecked.
The city’s strategy lays out plans for the Drainage Improvement Project in five phases. Beginning in 2011, the project’s third phase aims to connect the flood-prone section of Bee Street to a new drainage system. The project’s final two phases include the construction of a pump station and discharge piping to the Ashley River at a cost of $66 million.