The parking lot known as I-26 will get more lanes.
Just don't count on those widening projects keeping up with the ever-growing - and ever-slowing - traffic flow for long.
As road-tested Post and Courier colleague Prentiss Findlay reported on Sunday's front page: "No place on a South Carolina interstate has a higher traffic count than I-26 from the U.S. Highway 52 Connector to Ashley Phosphate Road."
And: "The No. 2 most congested stretch of South Carolina interstate is I-26 from Remount Road to Interstate 526."
Thus, while you must drive more than 300 miles to see the mighty Braves' home opener against the hapless Mets a week from tonight in person, you don't have to go far to see Atlanta-style traffic up close and personal. That's because at too many times on too many roads in these parts, you can't go far fast.
The most obvious solution: more lanes, on I-26 and elsewhere, to make room for more cars - and trucks.
That is, until those lanes can't handle the extra load their presence helps create.
Back to baseball: "If you build it, they will come."
OK, so that "Field of Dreams" line is actually "If you build it, he will come."
And the "build it" pitch from that overrated 1989 movie isn't about luring more people, aka drivers, to come to the Lowcountry.
It's about luring, among other "hes," the Upstate's "Shoeless Joe" Jackson to come out of the grave to play on a baseball diamond that Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) decides to build in an Iowa cornfield.
Back from film fantasy to bumper-to-bumper (or breeder-reactor) reality:
Road construction fuels more population, which fuels more road construction, which more population, which fuels ...
Another front-page story in our newspaper, from last Thursday, cited new Census Bureau estimates showing the three fastest-growing metropolitan areas on the U.S. Atlantic Coast between June 2012 and June 2013 were all in South Carolina - No. 1 Myrtle Beach area, No. 2 Hilton Head area, No. 3 Greater Charleston.
Welcome to Boom Town.
What's in a verb?
Convincing West Ashley residents suffering from road-congestion headaches that we don't need to "extend" (or is that "complete"?) I-526, aka the Mark Clark Expressway, isn't easy.
Convincing more people around here or anywhere else to spend more tax money on mass transit - and to use it - is a tough sell, too.
The very American sense of individual liberty has long thrilled through setting forth on free and open highways - even crowded ones.
As for car-pooling, it subjects you to the vagaries of others who might not share your sense of punctuality.
Plus, if you're not behind the wheel, you're at the mercy of somebody else's potentially fatal driving ineptitude.
Many of us also are understandably reluctant to let others see how messy our car interiors are or to clean up our vehicular-transportation acts.
Back to ominous Post and Courier revelations with a headline from the front page of Friday's South section:
"Wooten proposal revisits I-73 tolls."
Mike Wooten, that is, the S.C. Department of Transportation commissioner from the 7th Congressional District - no admitted kin of mine.
And even if we can keep putting off the dubious idea of I-73 expansion in South Carolina, a lot of people are going to have to pay a lot more money for a lot more road work across not just our state but our nation.
Plus, our existing highways - and bridges - need expensive upgrades of their own.
Now that we Baby Boomers have frittered away much of our nation's wealth on nebulous Nanny State notions of "free" government goodies, this 2012 lament from consistently funny libertarian commentator P.J. O'Rourke rings ever more true:
"Never mind what we did with our own college educations, we don't want our college kids majoring in Heuristics of Modern Dance or Neo-Marxist Anime. We want them to study science, engineering, and math. But where are the inter-planetary missions for them to plot with their astrophysics? Where are the floating cities, flying cars, and personal jet packs for them to build with their engineering?"
Those flying cars would come in handy now for folks fuming in gridlock exhaust on I-26; I-526; Highway 17 west of the Ashley (where a Monday accident triggered a severe Savannah Highway snarl); Highway 17 on the peninsula's Crosstown; Highway 17 east of the Cooper; Folly Road; Rivers Avenue; River Road; Dorchester Road and other local thoroughfares that need more lanes.
At least proliferating tri-county traffic signals local prosperity.
After all, we wouldn't have so much of it if so many people didn't keep coming here.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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