COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Department of Transportation may soon receive the funding it needs to expand a stretch of I-26 from Charleston to Columbia.

Governor Henry McMaster was joined by SCDOT Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall to announce a proposal to use $360 million from the American Rescue Plan to speed up the widening of I-26 between Charleston and the state capitol.

“Everywhere you look, South Carolina is growing,” said Gov. McMaster. “Businesses are moving here, businesses are expanding here, and businesses are starting there – more and more people are visiting our state; we’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of goods and products flowing through the Port of Charleston and we’ve seen the corresponding increase in traffic and delays on our roads and highways.”

As such, Gov. McMaster said SCDOT has long identified the widening of I-26 as one of its highest priorities. This one-time investment, they say, will help the department accelerate its planned widening project by six years.

“Instead of starting the project in the next 10 years, we are anticipating being able to complete the project within the next ten years,” said Hall.

“Anybody that drives this area or is familiar with this area knows that this section of I-26 experiences congestion, delays, and frequent accidents on a routine basis,” said Secretary Hall. “It can take hours to travel through this area versus normal travel speeds.”

The project will tackle the widening of South Carolina’s longest interstate from both ends – working from the Columbia end towards Charleston and working on the Charleston end towards Columbia collectively.

“The connection from the Midlands hub of South Carolina to the port of Charleston is absolutely critical and crucial to our continued prosperity in South Carolina,” said Hall. “A widening project is needed now.”

Secretary Hall says the first phase of the project is slated to begin next year and then two subsequent phases on each end by 2023. Construction will continue in sequences after that until completed.

She said the department has been working on the design and planning for the project. She said once the money becomes available, they will be ready to begin.