The South Carolina Department of Transportation is looking for ideas to fix traffic problems on Interstate 526 between Rivers Avenue in North Charleston and U.S. 17 in West Ashley. Ideas other than widening the road, that is.
According to SCDOT statistics, there were 1,014 car accidents on that stretch of road from 2008 to 2010, including 264 injuries and seven fatalities. Traffic, meanwhile, is increasing by about 1.5 percent every year. And while improvements for I-526 are on the department's long-term radar as a Mega Project (they are expected to cost more than the total of the state's interstate highway funding for three years), they have got to wait in line behind another Mega Project: improvements on I-85 near Greenville. So in the meantime, as the bureaucrats say, the goal is to pick some "low-hanging fruit" — that is, fix the problems that can be addressed quickly and cheaply.
The state has hired design and consulting company Stantec to spend the next 18 months assessing problems and proposing solutions on I-526. As Rick Day, principal of Stantec, explained at a public input meeting Tuesday night in North Charleston City Hall, potential improvements fall into four categories:
1. Transportation Demand Management: This could include encouraging people to carpool or use a rideshare program. The government could also ask companies to change their operating hours to lessen the strain on the road during rush hour traffic.
2. Alternate Mode Strategies: Commuters could switch to bus or rail (good luck with that). Truck travel could also be replaced by rail freight.
3. Traffic Operational Projects and Programs: The SCDOT could improve signs along the roadway or adjust the timing on traffic signals. They could also look into HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes and off-site crash investigation areas.
4. Capacity Improvements: If the need arises, the road could be widened eventually. Exit interchanges could also be improved.
If you have any complaints or bright ideas, you can send them to Michael Dennis, a technical applications engineer with SCDOT, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to Day at email@example.com. Comments can also be submitted via the SCDOT website, and Dennis is accepting mailed comments at P.O. Box 191, Columbia, S.C. 29202.