Get ready to see orange barrels on I-85 for a long time

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S.C. Secretary of Transportation Christy A. Hall

The South Carolina Department of Transportation has a lot of work planned along the Upstate’s Main Street – Interstate 85 – now that state lawmakers have given it $800 million more a year in funding.

So get ready to see orange barrels for a long time.

Lawmakers provided the extra road money through three bills since 2013. The last of the three, passed earlier this year, will generate about $600 million more a year by raising the state’s 16.75 cents-a-gallon gas tax by 12 cents over six years and through various new fees.

By issuing bonds and tapping federal funding, SCDOT says it plans to double its repaving work and, over a decade, enhance safety on 1,000 miles of rural roads, build 465 new bridges, and improve 140 miles of interstate.

Among the improvements planned in the Upstate is widening I-85 from Greenville to the North Carolina line.

SCDOT also plans to put down new pavement and replace bridges along I-85 and widen Interstate 26 on both sides of its intersection with I-85. Already, it is rebuilding the I-85/Interstate 385 interchange in Greenville.

“We expect the 85 corridor to be under construction for at least the next decade,” Christy Hall, South Carolina’s transportation secretary, told UBJ.

She said I-85 is South Carolina’s most heavily traveled interstate, carrying out-of-state motorists between Charlotte and Atlanta as well as local traffic from across the Upstate. The interstate is critical to the movement of raw materials and finished goods by the Upstate’s many manufacturers, she said.

Hall, 46, is originally from the Abbeville County community of Lowndesville. She graduated from Clemson University in 1994 with a degree in civil engineering and spent a decade in the SCDOT office along Pleasantburg Drive in Greenville.

The I-85 improvements are part of $5 billion worth of interstate improvements that SCDOT plans over the next decade.

Other major improvements are planned where interstates 26 and 526 come together in Charleston and the confluence of interstates 26, 20, and 126 in Columbia, an area known as “Malfunction Junction.” The latter project is estimated to cost $1.5 billion, Hall said.

“We view these big interstate projects as absolutely critical to the future economic success of our state,” she said.

Major multi-lane widening projects planned along I-85

I-85/385 Interchange rebuild in Greenville County

Construction began: December 2015

Estimated completion: Summer 2019

I-85 rehab and widening in Spartanburg/Cherokee counties. Rehab between mile markers 77-80, widening between mile markers 80-96

Construction began: January 2017

Estimated completion: Summer 2021

I-85 Widening in Cherokee County. Mile markers 96-106.

Estimated construction start: Summer 2018

Estimated completion: Winter 2022

I-85 Widening in Anderson/Greenville counties. Mile markers 40-69.

Estimated construction start: Fall 2021

Estimated completion: Spring 2026

Source: SCDOT

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