By Al Dozier

The Irmo Town Council received an update Thursday from the Richland County Penny Tax Program on the long-awaited widening of Broad River road, which is expected to begin in 2021.

The $40 million project is expected to relieve traffic congestion on the heavily-travelled road in the Irmo-Ballentine area by widening it to four lanes, adding a median and sidewalks over a 2.5 mile stretch between Royal Tower Road and Dutch Fork Road.

Currently, about 22,000 vehicles travel that stretch of Broad River Road each day, according to Richland County officials. That number is projected to grow to 34,000 by 2043

urrent property owners along the route will face some right-of way acquisitions, which are expected to begin in the third quarter of this yea. County officials estimate some 80 to 100 business and residential owners will have to give up some portions of property.

The construction improvements, which will require the removal of some utility fixtures, are expected to take 24 to 30 months to complete.

The project is expected to bring relief to traffic problems created by the heavy traffic flow, which often backs up during peak travel times.

Irmo Mayor Hardy King expressed concerns about right-of-way acquisitions on business properties that could lose important parking space areas

County officials said right-of-way policies are designed to compensate property owners for any losses that may result from new construction.

King also had concerns about the impact on Dutch Fork Elementary School, which utilizes a large parking area along-side Broad River Road.

Engineer Ben Lewis said county officials have “made sure we have input” from property owners throughout the process. He said another public hearing on the project is planned for the late summer or early fall.

Other improvements in the Irmo-Ballentine area include the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Kennerly Road and Coogler Road. Improvements are also planned for Koon Road.

The penny tax program will also fund major widening projects in other parts of Richland County that include Shop Road Extension, Clemson Road, Blythewood Road, Polo Road and North Main Street. The tax will also fund the paving of dirt roads and set up several greenways.

In 2012, Richland County citizens voted to approve the referendum for the Transportation Penny Tax Program, which imposed a 1 percent sales tax. The total cost of the Penny Program is $1.07 billion, which will be utilized for 22 years or until the budget has been depleted.

At Thursday’s meeting, county officials said $320 million in sales tax has been collected, with $316 million spent to date. Some $90 million is being used for improvements in the Comet bus system.

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