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Interstate 95 in South Carolina's Low Country to Be Widened Starting in Late 2024

Tue April 18, 2023 - Southeast Edition #9
The Island Packet & SCDOT

The widening project in the South Carolina Low County, just north of Savannah, Ga., is slated to be broken into three segments.
The widening project in the South Carolina Low County, just north of Savannah, Ga., is slated to be broken into three segments.

Beginning late year, the South Carolina Department of Transportation plans to widen Interstate 95 from two lanes to three lanes in both directions from the Georgia state line north through Jasper County, with work scheduled to be completed by 2032.

Part of the project also calls for widening I-26 to three lanes in each direction between Columbia and Charleston, the Island Packet in Hilton Head Island reported April 16. Interstate 26 connects to I-95 in Orangeburg County near the Dorchester County line.

While an expansion of the heavily traveled I-95 is welcome news to many, commuters like James Duncan fear traffic will only get worse before it gets better.

"It's one of those things where it feels like you're playing the lottery or rolling the dice," said Duncan, who travels from Ridgeland south to Okatie most days as a custom home builder. "Is it going to be good today? Is it going to be bad today?"

He told the Island Packet that he prefers to use I-95, but fears that with construction, the highway's congestion is "going to be a nightmare."

"I'm going to avoid I-95 [and] come the other way," Duncan added. "Sometimes your [GPS] or your Google Maps will take you around traffic congestion. I'm hoping [the expansion] will help."

Some drivers already avoid the interstate completely, taking alternative routes to get to Hilton Head Island.

SCDOT Divides I-95 Project into Three Segments

The widening project in the South Carolina Low County, just north of Savannah, Ga., is slated to be broken into three segments.

According to Kelly Moore, a spokesperson of SCDOT, the freeway construction from the Georgia state line to Exit 8 in Hardeeville, S.C., is expected to start in late 2024 or early 2025, followed by Exit 8 to Exit 21 in 2026, and Exit 21 to Exit 33 at the northern tip of the county in 2028.

Bradley Reynolds, SCDOT's project manager on the I-95 lane expansion, said crews will do their best to try to keep traffic flowing during the work.

"It is going to be a construction zone, but they're going to maintain [traffic] movements while they're building," he said in speaking with the Hilton Head Island news source.

Reynolds added that lane closures will be restricted to night work only, and estimated speed limits will be lowered from 70 mph to 60 mph on the mainline highway, although he noted "it really depends."

After the new lanes are installed, he said traffic will flow much smoother, the roads will be able to handle higher traffic capacities, and drivers will be safer.

In their current state, Reynolds said, the two interstates cannot support the number of cars that are traveling through and causing traffic to back up.

Project Also Geared to Improve Freight Movement

The I-95 project in Jasper County is estimated to cost $360 million to complete over six years, and Moore said more information will be available on each specific segment closer to the start of the project. She added that if the project had been spread out over 13 years as was originally planned, it would have cost $1.3 billion.

The interstate was designed for much lower traffic volumes than it currently serves, according to the I-95 Feasibility Report completed by SCDOT in 2021. The report also noted that traffic is expected to intensify over the next couple of decades, and already parts of I-95 rank among the worst rural interstates for moving freight.

The state transportation agency has had plans to widen I-95 since 2018, and construction for the project moved up three years after state legislators in Columbia designated $600 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to accelerate expansion projects for I-26 and I-95.

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