South Carolina has started modernizing the Interstate 95 and Interstate 26 interchange, located at the Orangeburg County and Dorchester County line.

State and local officials gathered Tuesday on the Whetsell Pond Road overpass to kick off the $240 million project.

“This interchange, when we finish it in three-and-a-half years, will be a fully modernized interchange ready to take us into the next century,” said S.C. Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall, who recently announced her retirement.

The I-95/I-26 interchange has a “cloverleaf” design, used since the interstates were built in the late 1950s and 1960s, Hall said.

“It will be upgraded to have additional flyovers – two separate flyovers – to handle some of the high-volume movements through the interchange to make it safer,” Hall said.

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“The loop coming from I-95 northbound to I-26 eastbound – coming from Georgia to head towards Columbia – is notoriously tight. We always have issues with it with collisions in just a very short area for the traffic to maneuver through. So that area is one those areas that we will upgrade with its own designated flyover bridge to separate all of those movements as well as the opposing direction coming from I-95 southbound to Charleston. It’s the same concept,” Hall said.

Hall said roughly 100,000 cars travel the area daily, noting that approximately 36 million vehicles come through the area annually.

Hall said the modernization of the interchange will benefit the Port of Charleston and the state’s businesses.

She also noted that the complete modernization of the interchange will “set the stage for the widening of the rest of I-26 to tie into it as well as the widening of I-95, as we continue to advance these areas as well.”

Sen. Vernon Stephens, D-Bowman, said “If you look back behind me, you see traffic. This is one of the greatest economic booms that I can think of for a long time, doing something with the interchange.”

Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, thanked state officials who made the project possible, but also expressed appreciation to President Joe Biden and his administration for the Infrastructure Act “and all that has been done at the federal level to make this possible.”

As cars and trucks whizzed by on I-26 below, Cobb-Hunter said, “I’m thrilled with all of this traffic coming. We hope as a result of the improvements at the intersection that we’ll have even more.”

S.C. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, said, “This is a long-time coming.”

“We’re entering year seven of our 10-year plan to fix our roads. I’m glad we came together and we passed a bill which allowed for increased funding which allowed for projects like this,” Grooms said.

“This is a critical interchange. It’s critical to the quality of life, to the people who live in South Carolina and we’re doing the right thing. I wish we could’ve done it 10 years ago, but we’re getting it done today and we’re going to get it done,” he said.

Funding for the interchange modernization comes from the National Highway Performance Program and the State of South Carolina.

The construction contract was executed on Jan. 19 with Archer Western Construction LLC.

Hall said motorists can expect to see work at the interchange in the coming months.

Officials estimate the project will be complete in the summer of 2027.

According to SCDOT, traffic is expected to continue while construction is underway. The agency aims to avoid having substantial road closures or detours, however, some temporary lane closures may be required.

Construction on the interchange symbolically started when Gov. Henry McMaster used a handheld radio to tell an SCDOT trackhoe operator in the median, “Hit it, brother.”

The trackhoe operator then used the digging bucket to turn the soil in the median.

“Buckle up, because it’s coming our way,” McMaster said.

“What we’re doing today is going to allow this area to blossom and coming forth, it’s going to help all of our people from generation to generation,” he said.

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