‘Craptastic.’ Midlands traffic snarls after a section of I-77 is closed for bridge repairs

Construction on I-77 in Lexington and Richland counties has many streets in the Midlands feeling like Malfunction Junction.

The state Department of Transportation began construction Friday, March 24, on a project to rehabilitate the decks — or driving surfaces — on 17 bridges on I-77. Under the project’s first phase, I-77 northbound has been closed from I-26 to Bluff Road for an expected nine day project. SCDOT will begin construction on the southbound part of I-77 in late April.

SCDOT alerted drivers on March 9 to prepare for longer commute times, but many people had a nasty shock Monday morning.

One person tweeted March 26 that he was “making good time” until he got caught in a “craptastic detour that add an hour and half to the drive.”

Road rage transferred onto social media. Users are complaining about the traffic “doubling” their work commute while others didn’t see notices before construction began. An administrator of The Avenues of West Columbia/Cayce Facebook group disabled comments under posts about traffic because of “extremely rude and hostile comments.”

One person posted in a Happenings in the West Columbia/Springdale/Cayce Facebook group saying she was frustrated with back roads being congested, too.

“It’s frustrating given that I hardly ever travel the highway and only take back roads, and now my back roads are filled with cars,” she commented under another post about the traffic.

SCDOT laid out a 20-mile detour for cars to take while the northbound lanes are closed: Follow I-26 westbound, I-20 eastbound, and S.C. 277 northbound.

David Brewer, Columbia’s traffic engineer, has advised drivers to stay on the route and not veer onto back roads. A SCDOT Twitter post on March 25 said locals “can consider” using local routes to get around traffic.

“It’s harder to get back onto the main roads when you take less used roads,” Brewer said.

Columbia has not seen more accidents since the construction started, according to Brewer. He said congestion and delays reduce a lot of accidents.

But, Brewer understands the desire to get around traffic as fast as possible.

“Everyone is looking at Google trying to find the fastest route,” Brewer said. “We’re doing it too.”

Other drivers are excited about the improvements coming.

“For what it’s worth, driving on I-77 in the condition it is currently in, is also a nightmare,” one person commented in a Facebook post. “I lost all four of my brand new tires before I even had 30k miles on them.”

The SCDOT encourages drivers to utilize 511.sc.org and the SCDOT 511 mobile app for real-time traffic and road closure information to plan routes.