North Main project hailed as monumental undertaking

Richland Transportation Program project underway following groundbreaking

 

The groundbreaking ceremony for improvements to a 1.7 mile stretch of North Main St. had community leaders reminiscing about the years of toil, bumps and obstacles they had to overcome to get to the ceremonial dirt slinging.

It also had the same leaders showing palpable enthusiasm and excitement about the $53 million project they say will help revitalize the North Columbia corridor and improve the quality of life for the community.

“It’s a fantastic day to break ground on one of the largest penny projects in the program,” said David Beaty, Richland County Transportation Program manager, during the Oct. 4 ceremonies. “This project is going to make an immediate impact on the quality of life in the City of Columbia, and that’s a great testament to Richland County.”

Richland County Council Chairwoman Joyce Dickerson said what will now be a pleasing corridor is “a gateway to the City of Columbia and the center of this city.”

“It will also help improve the quality of life for all of us,” she added. “As you see, the Penny (Tax Program) working through this county, it’s going to help all of us.”

In this North Main Street project, which will actually connect two previous projects, the deteriorating roadway from Anthony to Fuller avenues will be re-paved, and other improvements along the stretch will spruce up the road and make it safer and more assessable for pedestrians.

Those improvements include imprinted and textured pavement stamping for designated crosswalks, enhanced landscaping, decorative traffic signals, street lighting, improved pedestrian routes and crosswalks and overhead utilities relocated underground.

“There are more positive aspects to this project than one can imagine or dream of,” said Paul Livingston, Richland County Councilman representing the North Columbia area.

The project is being completed as part of the Richland County Transportation Penny Tax program, which is paying $30 million toward the improvements. In addition, the project is being funded with a $16.65 million Tiger Grant, a $1.3 million Federal Earmark and $5.4 million from the City of Columbia for water and sewer work.

“This is doing exactly what the intent of the penny was supposed to do,” Livingston said. “We’re improving the infrastructure of Richland County and creating opportunities for businesses in our communities.”

The project is scheduled for completion in September 2019. Motorists should expect lane closures and shifts throughout the construction, but no one attending the groundbreaking ceremony seemed to mind. In fact, Tameika Isaac Devine, mayor pro ten for the City of Columbia who lives in the North Main Street area, said knowing why she’s in a traffic delay makes it more than tolerable.

“Not only is this about revitalizing the community, but it’s about improving the quality of life for the families who live here,” Devine said. “Families who live in this community will see the benefits for a long time.

“It’s taking many years and we’re finally here. And we’re not done.”

When complete, this stretch of road will look like the completed sections of North Main Street from Elmwood Avenue to Anthony Avenue. Three future phases will encompass more of North Main Street.

“We’re seeing fantastic things happening in North Columbia,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said. “New families coming here, empty nesters, millennials, all coming here because they see what is happening here. Exciting things are happening to the tune of literally well over $100 million invested out here in District 1.”

The contractor for the project is Columbia-based L-J, Inc.

Information meetings will be held throughout the construction process for residents and businesses affected by the project. These meetings will provide construction updates and an anticipated work scheduled.

“It’s going to be a great project for the community,” said Tony Edwards, acting Richland County transportation director. “It connects two other projects; it’s like putting a nice bow on the projects for the community.”

This project is among millions of dollars in transportation and commuter improvements being made possible through the Richland County Transportation Penny Tax program approved by voters in November 2012.