Dust flying

Published 8:00 am Friday, August 31, 2018

I-26 ramp to be closed until Sept. 10; other ramp may not be complete before games

COLUMBUS — Dust was literally flying Wednesday during a North Carolina Department of Transportation press conference in Columbus, as contractors are working long shifts to get the U.S. 74 ramps complete in the next 11 days.

The current ramp closure to get onto Interstate 26 West will remain closed until Sept. 10, according to NCDOT spokesperson David Uchiyama.

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The two bridges on U.S. 74 being constructed will be complete as the construction is almost done now, he said. Contractors were excavating underneath the bridges to make way for a road underneath prior to the World Equestrian Games beginning on Sept. 11. 

Dust was flying Wednesday during a North Carolina Department of Transportation press conference regarding the construction on I-26 and U.S. 74 in Columbus as contractors rush to get construction complete before the World Equestrian Games. The NCDOT said one ramp will be complete prior to the WEG, and they are putting together an expedited plan in hopes of having the other open. The ramp to I-26 West will remain closed until Sept. 10. (Photo by Leah Justice/Tryon Daily Bulletin)

“The most critical ramp that we wanted to get done before the games will be done,” Uchiyama said. “And that is the ramp that takes folks from the Greenville/Spartanburg area over to Rutherford County (I-26 West to U.S. 74 East).”

The bridge coming the other way is another story.

Uchiyama said the bridge from U.S. 74 West to I-26 East is going to be close to meeting the WEG deadline. Heavy rains this spring and mudslides put the project behind schedule. The ramps were supposed to be completed by Aug. 17, but the NCDOT took contractors to the Pacolet Valley to help with clean up after mudslides in May. The area also received more than 20 inches of rain just in May, which delayed the work.

“Our hope is to come up with an expedited plan to get that open,” Uchiyama said Wednesday.

He said what is important about the two ramps is not necessarily for the spectators of the WEG, but for every day traffic, as well as infrastructure, cargo of horses, equipment and services getting to and from the Tryon International Equestrian Center from Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C.

As for the number of people who will be on the roads during the games, Uchiyama said that is a great unknown for this area. He said the eclipse was another unknown where the state of North Carolina didn’t know what to expect.

“The eclipse we had no idea how many people were coming, when they were coming or when they were leaving,” said Uchiyama.

He said some lessons were learned during the eclipse, however, particularly with instantaneous communications across the state. There will be individuals stationed in Raleigh’s communication center specifically for the WEG, he said.

Also, all lane closures will be removed on major roads in both Polk and Henderson County during the WEG.

The NCDOT moved the U.S. 74 ramp project up by about three years once the games were awarded to TIEC in 2016. The project is estimated at $19.8 million and will create direct connectors between I-26 and U.S. 74. Once complete, drivers will not have to exit in Columbus and go around the roundabouts to get from one interstate the other.

The U.S. 74 bridge project, to create bridges on U.S. 74 so a road can be constructed underneath, is estimated at $5.2 million.