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Vote to approve $550 milliion of S.C. road work delayed

The Department of Transportation has released a list of seven interstate widening projects it wants to tackle. But on Thursday, the State Infrastructure Bank voted to delay for two weeks its decision to approve the list.

The Associated Press

10/25/2013

COLUMBIA, S.C.  — A board that pays for major road projects in South Carolina has delayed its decision on how to spend $550 million and may reconsider which projects get money.

The Department of Transportation has released a list of seven interstate widening projects it wants to tackle. But on Thursday, the State Infrastructure Bank voted to delay for two weeks its decision to approve the list.

The bank apparently wants to consider more projects. Board members discussed taking the money from widening Interstate 77 in Richland County and using it for design work on other projects that were not part of the DOT list.

One of those projects is reconstructing the intersection of Interstate 20 and Interstate 26 in Columbia. The project is the state's top priority, but didn't make it on the list because the $700 million price tag would leave the state with nothing else to spend.

Bank members discussed using $38 million that was supposed to pay to widen I-77 to three lanes from I-20 to South Carolina Highway 277 and put it toward designing projects like the I-20 and I-26 interchange. Other projects mentioned that weren't on the DOT list included improvements to I-26 in Spartanburg County, widening I-20 near the Georgia state line, widening I-26 northwest of Columbia, widening I-26 in Berkeley County, widening Interstate 85 from the Georgia state line into Anderson County and improving the interchange between I-26 and Interstate 95.

The new approach would get those projects closer to being ready for construction should more money become available, State Infrastructure Bank Board Chairman Don Leonard said.

Board member Johnny Edwards asked the board to go ahead and approve the DOT list as submitted. His motion failed on a 3-2 vote. The board will take up the matter again in a few weeks.

"That's not what we told people at our last meeting we were going to do," Edwards said. "We need to do this above board, without any clouds in the air and we need to do the right thing for the people of South Carolina, not the politically right thing."

Federal money will also go into the projects. Edwards said the state already knows how much the federal government will spend and any changes to the list could alter the formula.

The projects on DOT's list are:

— Improving the I-85 and I--385 interchange and widening I-385 in the area to six lanes at $240 million

— Widening 5 miles of I-26 to eight lanes west of I-20 in Columbia at $90 million

— Improving 25 miles of the six-lane portion of I-85 in Greenville and Spartanburg counties at $241 million. Patton said widening the road to eight lanes would triple the cost.

— Widening 19 miles of I-526 to six lanes near Charleston at $534 million

— Widening 10 miles of I-20 to six lanes in Lexington County at $155 million

— Widening 3 miles I-77 to six lanes between I-20 and South Carolina Highway 277 in Richland County at $39 million

— Widening 28 miles of I-85 to six lanes in Cherokee County at $425 million.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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