Interstate 126 South Carolina
Interstate 126 parallels the Saluda River southeast from Interstate 26 near the “Malfunction Junction” interchange with I-20, to a pair of a bridges spanning the Broad River. The freeway concludes at the U.S. 21-176-321 turn from Huger Street to Elmwood Avenue northwest of Downtown.
Doubling as U.S. 76 from I-26 east to Elmwood Avenue, Interstate 126 varies between six and eight lanes. There are no exit numbers along the urban freeway.
The eastern terminus of Interstate 126 transitions to Business Spur I-126 along Elmwood Avenue. Only signed once in the westbound direction, the 0.50 mile designation overlays U.S. 21, 76, 176 and 321 to South Carolina 277 (Bull Street).
The Carolina Crossroads Project will redesign both the full cloverleaf interchange (“Malfunction Junction”) at Interstates 20 and 26 and the adjacent tie in with Interstate 126. An Environmental Impact Statement being prepared by the FHWA and South Carolina Department of Transportation (SDOT) through summer 2017 develops an array of alternatives to address congestion and safety concerns associated with substandard design, weaving traffic patterns and left-hand ramps.
Alternatives for the I-20/126 East-West Connector involve extending Interstate 126 west to meet I-20 directly. The Directional Interchange alternative eliminates the current left-hand ramps south of Bush River Road and constructs a new high speed exchange south of the Saluda River. The Bush River alternative retains the left-hand ramps at I-26/126 while extending I-126 to the north of the Saluda River to a full interchange with I-20. The Direct Connector alternative also follows the north side of the Saluda River as it lengths I-126 west to a wye interchange with I-20 west while retaining the left-hand ramps at I-26.
Construction on the first phase of road work is expected to commence in 2019. Phases II and III will follow in 2023 and 2027 respectively.
Interstate 126 opened in conjunction with I-26 north from U.S. 21-176-321 at Cayce and S.C. 121 outside Newberry in 1960. The freeway was expanded to eight lanes west from Greystone Boulevard in 1988.
Sign changes made in 1994 along Interstate 26 east at I-126 replaced tri-color shields with text displaying “Route I-126” for the left-hand exit. The alteration was made to reduce motorist confusion, where drivers merging onto I-26 from adjacent I-20 could not differentiate the two 26’s in time to safely maneuver to their desired ramp.1 Similar issues resulted in the de-signing of Interstate 124 in Chattanooga and displaying I-129 in text on overheads along I-29 at Sioux City, Iowa.
East End – Columbia, South Carolina
West End – St. Andrews, South Carolina
- “A Failure to Communicate? – Travelers Follow the Signs to Crossroads of Confusion.” The State (Columbia, SC), May 26, 1994.
Page updated November 30, 2016.