DOT wants to put an Interstate in front of my house, I have not been notified, and today is the last day to comment

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Here’s the notice that was brought to my attention — not by the government, but by my daughter — this afternoon.

Actually, that headline pretty much states the case, but I’ll elaborate a bit.

I’m a big Douglas Adams fan. But I’d always thought what he was writing was satire, outlandish situations that couldn’t possibly be true-to-life, which were grossly distorted for comic effect.

For instance, take this passage from the start of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which our loser hero Arthur Dent has just lain in front of a bulldozer that is trying to knock his house down in order to build the bypass he has just learned about:

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Funny, huh?

Well, today I learned that Adams wasn’t writing a comic novel. He was writing journalism. Predictive journalism, I suppose you’d call it. He was describing the very situation in which I find myself today.

Today, I forgot to bring in the lunch I had prepared, so I drove home to eat it there. Good thing, too. As I walked in, my wife was on the phone expressing amazement and alarm, and saying things like, “Nobody told ME!!!…”

She was on the phone with my daughter who lives in Shandon, who had discovered, quite incidentally, through a mutual acquaintance’s social media post, that the state of South Carolina had rather specific plans to build an Interstate more or less through our house (as I initially heard it in that moment of shock), and that today was the last day for comments.

And no, no one had told us. No one had walked down our street to knock on doors and tell us (assuming they had the courage) or left little fliers on our doorknobs (assuming they didn’t, which seems the safer bet). No one had sent us anything via snail mail. Or emailed us. Or sent us Facebook messages, or Tweets, or texts, or called on the phone, or left a comment on my blog, or used any of the bewildering array of communication methods available in the Year of Our Lord 2016.

In other words, I’d have been no worse off if the notice had been on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard.”

Nor had I seen any news coverage of the plan, which is one of three potential routes the state is considering for addressing the “problem” called Malfunction Junction.

Of course, I must confess, I had seen stories in the paper about that process, and hadn’t read any of them. You know why? Because I wasn’t interested. You know why? Because it had never struck me as a particularly compelling issue. Because why? Because I live less than a mile from the much-cursed interchange, and people have been griping about it ever since I moved back to South Carolina in 1987, and I have yet to fully understand what they are whining about.

I’ve passed through that intersection coming from every direction and going in every direction, at every time of day on every day of the week, and yeah, it gets backed up somewhat during peak drive times. You know what I call that? Living in a city. You know how to deal with it? Adjust your route, or your drive time. Or just live with it. Try this: Go live in the District of Columbia for a month and come back here, and you’ll get down and kiss the pavement at the very knottiest point of the intersection of Interstates 20 and 26. Just kidding. Don’t do that. If you do, people will start whining about you causing traffic to back up, and next thing you know, I’ve got the bulldozers at my door…

Oh, but wait — I do anyway. Almost.

But, upon closer examination, there’s good news: Once I took a careful look at the proposed connector, I saw that it wasn’t exactly, technically, going directly through my living room. No, when I zoom in as much as the website will let me (which isn’t much), it looks like it’s going down the SCE&G right-of-way that runs directly behind the houses across the street from me. That’s a good 50 or even 100 feet from my house. All it would do is cut me off from the only ways out of my subdivision, aside from swimming across the Saluda River.

Whew. And to think I was worried.

But let’s calm down a bit. Let’s get informed. Let’s go read the news coverage we’ve been ignoring, shall we? Such as this story in The State last week, which gets specific:

If the Department of Transportation decides improving existing intersections and widening roads is the way to go, the bulk of the properties affected will be along Broad River and St. Andrews roads. Those two commercial thoroughfares parallel either side of I-26 in the heart of the busy corridor.

Widening Broad River would affect 999 sites, while another 705 would be affected on St. Andrews, according to plans outlined at an update on the massive road project at Seven Oaks School….

Ummmm… I didn’t see anything there, or elsewhere in the story, that in any way indicated that there was something to which I needed pay attention!!!!

Did you? I mean, I live on the opposite side of the river from all of that. And it sounded like they had no intention of disturbing residential areas.

Here’s the map. The crudely drawn yellow star shows you where my house is:

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Apparently, there are two alternatives to ripping through my subdivision under consideration. Both are on the other side of the river from me, are cheaper, and would disturb far fewer people that the one cutting through my neighborhood.

Here’s the comparison:

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The one called “Directional Interchange” is the one that goes through my neighborhood. The two above it seem to go mostly through some woods. Although… there is slightly greater wetland impact.

So obviously, since we live in a rational universe, I have nothing to worry about, right?

Oh, wait. I just remembered: Donald Trump is a major-party nominee for president of the United States in this universe. And there’s no guarantee he’s going to lose.

OK, I’m worried.

Wait — I just remembered: Today is my last day to comment. OK, here’s my comment:

Don’t do it. Don’t do any of these. Save the money. Or, if you must address this problem, choose one of the options that cost less and cause less disruption.

That, by the way, would be my recommendation if this didn’t come anywhere within 100 miles of my house. It’s sort of my default position.

Oh, and one other thing, which may sound personal, but also fits with my beliefs about sound public policy: Next time, how about giving a guy a heads-up?

Thanks.

Now, could someone please hand me something that says, in large, reassuring letters, DON’T PANIC?

(Below you see the other two routes under consideration.)

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20 thoughts on “DOT wants to put an Interstate in front of my house, I have not been notified, and today is the last day to comment

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Very cute! And speaking of cute video, everyone be sure to check out the one on the website, which includes virtually NO information beyond the above maps and chart, and the cute video.

      Which I would embed for you, except no embed code is provided. Perhaps because that might have facilitated getting the word out.

      Not that I have an attitude about this or anything.

      Anybody have a horse I can borrow? Apparently, I need to ride up and down my neighborhood tonight yelling, “The Interstate is coming! The Interstate is coming!”…

      Reply
  1. Kiki

    Bryan my comment to DOT was similar, but seriously: self-driving cars are coming fast and will obviate the need for this project.

    Reply
  2. Mark Stewart

    Another option would be to condemn all the properties on the north side of Bush River Rd. between I-20 and I-26 (except the hotel at the west) and run the connector through there with a exit / entrance to a down–sized Bush River Rd. Whatever happens, they wouldn’t go with the highest cost option. Instead, they will let a lower cost option spiral out of control…

    Anyway, a connector between I-20 and I-26 is a good idea. If they ran it instead down south of US 1 (Emmanuel Church) they could tie in an airport access and create most of a loop, tying into I-77 to create an I-320.

    Reply
  3. Scout

    Well the video is cute but maybe I’m just too tired, and I am, in fact, really tired, but I find the cute little maps to be rather confusing and not very helpful. The colors are nice but I could find a legend nowhere. What do the cute colors on the roads mean? I could find no words to help explain what is existing and what is proposed. I’m probably just too tired to process it properly – I will look again in a bit, but my first impression is….What?

    Usually I’m good at maps, but the zoom is not very helpful. I had trouble finding landmarks I expected.

    Hopefully it’s not going through my house too. I live off of 378 very near the botanical garden entrance, but I think on the other side of 26 from these proposed shenanigans….I think.

    I’ll investigate after some food.

    Reply
    1. Scout

      Ok so I’m starting to get my bearings. 378 is not in that picture. The straight line coming diagonally out of the interchange kind of toward the bottom left corner of the picture must be maybe Ephrata? So the back of the hospital property is in the picture. I think.

      So it’s going to cut off the River’s Edge people and go through the back of Westover Acres through some very low and swampy land before crossing the river.

      That is kind of close to my neighborhood, but not quite as bad as Brad and Arthur Dent.

      Mmmmmmmm. Not sure what I think.

      Reply
    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, my own attempts to find actual, detailed info — such as a text narrative describing the plans — were fruitless.

      And I had a terrible time calling up the maps and enlarging them in ways that were helpful…

      Reply
  4. John

    I believe the route across your subdivision would include construction on a section of rapids on the Saluda where the Shoals Spider Lily has colonized. They have been candidates for Endangered Species Act protection for some time, maybe someone who knows that river better could comment? I’m not sure how wetlands protection vs ESA would clash but if both those issues come up then other solutions might look more attractive to the road builders.

    Reply
  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, y’all… My state senator, Nikki Setzler, posted this on Facebook last night:

    To the residents of Quail Hollow:
    Let me assure you this vote WILL NOT be held tomorrow.
    I have spoken with South Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall and she has told me that the comment period related to Malfunction Junction alternatives is being extended to November 1.
    Let me also assure you that I am STRONGLY opposed to ANY alternative that goes through Quail Hollow and will stand with you in opposition.

    So good for Nikki.

    By the way, I had a meeting with him this morning — set up last week, to talk about the election — and learned that HE learned about the situation late yesterday. Someone called him while he was at a meeting in Aiken. The form of the story that reached him said DOT was taking some sort of VOTE on the matter today — hence his reference on FB to a vote.

    He called Christy Hall, who decided to extend the comment period…

    Reply
  6. Karen Pearson

    I could remind you of your (editorial ) response some years ago to my complaint about the quarry running its gravel trucks along the street behind my house. Something about being willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the community –that is for the folks trying to convert the mill into condos. But I’d not do such a thing. I suspect that you and your neighbors will be able to stop this route if you work together. Keep us posted.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Absolutely, Karen!

      And were this the best plan for addressing something that needed addressing for the greater good, then I would have to bow to that. It wouldn’t make me happy, but I’d find it hard to argue against.

      As things stand, the option that goes through my neighborhood looks ridiculously ill-advised, and that’s what I would say if it were your neighborhood or anyone else’s.

      But the MAIN justification for my post was the laughably (if one can have a sense of humor about it) lousy job DOT did notifying the affected parties. I LOVE Bud’s protest that it had been posted on a sign on the Interstate for months — it really does seem straight out of Douglas Adams.

      A post such as this runs against my grain. All those years of being a newspaper editor, with the powerful inhibitions (and rules, at the papers where I worked) against using the power of the press to accomplish anything that affected me personally.

      But the ingredients of this situation were way too delectable for me to refrain from posting. Besides, this is a personal blog, not the editorial page of a newspaper. A blog is all about posts such as this.

      Or so I rationalize…

      Reply
  7. Douglas Ross

    Let’s give the DOT more money by raising gas taxes… they appear to be doing a fantastic job with the resources they have. I mean, yeah, they created the problem in the first place with a poor design but I’m 100% they will bring this project in on time and under budget! I fully expect to see at least 30% of the people standing around the road construction actually working.

    What will the impact be on property values if the road goes where it is planned?

    Reply
      1. Mark Stewart

        There is upside in proposing the alternative that you are upset about. It gets people to galvanize in favor of options A or B.

        Reply
      1. Douglas Ross

        Nobody who has ever attempted to merge off 26 onto I20 East has marveled at the design. It was a bad idea no matter when it was done.

        Reply
        1. bud

          Doug I realize nothing I can ever say is going to make a dent. But the fact is when the Carolina Crossroads interchange was designed it was assumed ADT numbers would be around 10,000 vehicles per day and gradually increase to perhaps 30,000 by the 80s and by then upgrades would be justified. The basic cloverleaf design was a standard approach freeways of this nature back in the 50s and 60s. Had the interchange been engineered for even 30k back in 1965 when I-20 opened the public would have howled about the ridiculous extravagance of the design. People like Doug would have screamed “Why don’t we build a cloverleaf like every other sensible state in the country?” And there certainly wouldn’t have been money to build it. No one anticipated the astounding increase in travel volume. No one could have anticipated it. Columbia was just not a very big place. With a 30-40k traffic volume the current design would still be functional but definitely due for an upgrade today. But sometimes the best forecasts by the experts don’t pan out. With upwards of 120k vehicles travelling through that area today it is definitely in need of an upgrade. If only we could get a small gas tax increase to pay for this and other aging designs. If only.

          Reply
  8. Erin

    The option on the other side of the river will sadly not be chosen because it would affect a paving company connected to the SCDOT. And I absolutely agree; if you want growth deal with the congestion!

    Reply
    1. Rosemarie Cravey

      Are you saying then that option 3 is inevitable? It’s hard to imagine such an established neighborhood as Quail Hollow being dissolved. So many families would be displaced.

      Reply

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