Commuters called on for ideas to fix I-526 congestion

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Transportation is trying to avoid a mega project. A project that would max out all available funds for the next three years. A project that would call for the widening of Interstate 526 heading west from Rivers Avenue to Savannah Highway. And to help them come up with low cost alternatives they're calling on the people that drive that stretch daily.

Over the last three years, more than 1,000 accidents have taken place on I-526 between those two points and the SC DOT says the corridor is one of the top five busiest stretches of road in the state.

And that information is getting the attention of the SC DOT in a big way.

"We're going to look at a range of things to really help solve this problem," says Rick Day, whose company Stantec was hired to help by the DOT as a consultant engineer firm.

Day is matched with the challenge of coming up with a low cost solution to make I-526 a safer place for drivers without having to break the bank and add another lane to the roadway (the mega project).

But Day says his input can only go so far which is why the public, that travel the highway daily, were also asked to weigh in on what would make the highway less of a problem zone.

"I was very concerned," says Keyon Carter, who jumped at the opportunity to share his ideas at a meeting like this one Tuesday.

Carter lives in North Charleston where he believes the traffic and accidents on the Mark Clark Expressway are the worst.

"Accidents happen everyday," says Carter. "There's no doubt about that, it's going to happen."

Three years of data gathering by Stantec backs up Carter's theory. The area of corridor in North Charleston from Rivers past the I-26 merge has spawned 120 accidents, which is third on the list of the worst I-526 sections.

The top of the list is the stretch at the end of 526 which totaled 148 accidents since 2008.

"In the afternoon you know you're going to face congestion," says Senator Glenn McConnell, who was also present giving suggestions along with the public.

Ideas from putting a transit line down the middle of the highway to changing the time schedules of cargo trucks to reduce congestion were passed along to the SC DOT.

The Transportation department says any and all suggestions will be heard but Carter says no matter what they come up with something has to be done before things get worse.

"The city has out grown itself," he says. "If we don't do something to solve the problem right now, we're always going to be behind."

The SC DOT will look at all suggestions at a workshop planned for next month as they continue to collect data and make the best decision to deal with the congestion on I-526.

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