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SCDOT hosting online, in-person meetings on I-526 plans

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 5:02 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2021 at 5:43 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - New plans from the Department of Transportation show big changes could be coming to one of the Lowcountry’s most crowded interstates.

Virginia Avenue at I-526 in North Charleston is the starting point of the SCDOT’s potential $4 billion project that involves building new, wider bridges along the Lowcountry Corridor, which runs 23 miles to U.S. 17 in Mount Pleasant.

The DOT proposes replacing the Wando and Don Holt bridges along 526 East. They say these plans are a result of public comment from a 2020 public information meeting and survey. The plans involve replacing and raising the Don Holt and replacing and lowering Wando Bridge, also increasing the lanes from 2 to 4 in each direction.

SCDOT officials say this is all an effort to reduce congestion and traffic and improve travel times. They say they looked at several solutions that involve even keeping the bridges.

“All those options initially, whether they could be widened, what remaining useful life they had, what it would look like to do new bridges completely or to do a new bridge in coordination with the old bridge,” SCDOT Project Manager Joy Riley says. “We have ultimately come up with about five build and one no-build alternatives that we’re recommending.”

Not all alternatives involve building new bridges, but the SCDOT says they’re asking for public comment on these proposed solutions right now. They also say without improvements along I-526 east, travel times could increase by almost 200% by 2050.

You have the opportunity to comment on the project through Dec. 1. The SCDOT launched an effort Monday to answer questions about plans to improve I-526 and congestion.

Meetings will help explain how feedback the agency receives is affecting the development of I-526 Lowcountry Corridor East Planning and Environmental Linkages, which extends from Virginia Avenue in North Charleston to approximately U.S. Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant.

“The I-526 Lowcountry Corridor East is one of South Carolina’s most congested interstate corridors and includes the Don Holt Bridge and the James B. Edwards Bridge, which are significant river crossings,” SCDOT spokesman Robert Kudelka says. “The purpose for transportation improvements along this corridor is to improve travel time reliability and reduce congestion along I-526 from Virginia Avenue in North Charleston to US 17 in Mount Pleasant.”

The agency will ask for feedback on alternatives, outline the next steps in the development process and gather information on historic or cultural resources.

“This public information meeting represents a valuable opportunity to receive public input on the potential solutions we are presenting,” SCDOT Project Manager Joy Riley said. “With the amount of congestion along this corridor now, further compounded by the current trend of regional growth, it is now more important than ever to find effective solutions.”

The online meeting is available through Dec. 1 and can be found at the I-526 Lowcountry Corridor website.

There will be two open-house in-person public meetings this week:

  • Tuesday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., R. L. Jones Center, 391 Egypt Rd., Mount Pleasant
  • Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Felix C. Davis Community Center, 4800 Park Circle, North Charleston (CARTA Routes 13 & 104)

These open house meetings will not have a formal presentation. COVID-19 conditions will be continually monitored. In accordance with current public health guidelines, temperature checks will be performed at all meetings. Anyone with a temperature of over 100.4 will not be allowed to enter the facility. The City of North Charleston currently requires masks inside their buildings. Masks are highly encouraged when not required. Check the project website or call for updates.

The public is encouraged to submit a comment through Dec. 1.

Comments may be submitted on the project website, by email to info@526LowcountryCorridor.com, by mail (Attn. Joy Riley, SC Department of Transportation, Post Office Box 191, 955 Park Street, Columbia, SC 29202-0191), or by calling the project hotline at 843-258-1135.

Comments must be postmarked or submitted electronically by Dec. 1.

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