NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Department of Transportation approved a 1.8 billion dollar project that will expand I-26 between Charleston and Columbia.
Thursday, the SCDOT commission listened to SCDOT Deputy Secretary of Intermodal Planning, Jim Feda, as he proposed a new plan to widen 18 corridors along I-26.
SCDOT says the program is specifically targeting rural sections of the interstate that are critical to freight transportation across the state.
“Improving the I-95 and I-26 interstate corridors is absolutely critical to the continued economic growth of the state and it is long overdue. I applaud the staff and Commission for recognizing that we needed to address the interstate needs in the rural areas of the state,“ said 6th Congressional District Commissioner, J. Barnwell Fishburne.
They plan to tackle this $1.8 billion project over the course of some years by spending $110 million on it per year.
The $110 million will come from money that currently goes back to taxpayers. As of right now, there’s a six year program in which taxpayers can file for tax credits connected to the increased gas tax enacted in 2017 on state income tax returns. Once this program ends in 2023, the DOT plans to allocate that money, which averages to about $114 million, and put that toward widening I-26.
Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said, “Trucking is the primary mode of freight travel in South Carolina and it’s projected to grow by more than 60% over the next two decades. To close the widening gap on I-26 between Columbia and Charleston is estimated to cost about $1.8 Billion in today’s dollars and to widen the first 33 miles of I-95 is estimated to cost $1.2 Billion. We must start today with identifying how to break these corridors into projects that can be advanced as funding becomes available.”
Many members of the commission believe this project is long overdue and essential for economic growth. Being that the tax credit program does not end until 2023, funding for the project will not be available until 2023.
Thursday, the commission added the additional funds they plan to use toward the I-26 widening project in their 10 year plan. Although, they will not touch or have access to that money until 2023.