Interstate 26 project to create 14,000 jobs

Interstate 26 near Summerville will be widened and a new interchange built to spur port-related business that is expected to create thousands of jobs, said state Rep. Chip Limehouse.

On Tuesday, the State Infrastructure Bank board voted unanimously to approve $15 million for the project to widen two miles of the interstate to six lanes up to Jedburg. A new interchange will be built at Sheep Island Road for port shipper business, said Limehouse, R-Charleston, and a member of the board.

"This is going to provide much-needed jobs for a Lowcountry that is struggling out of a recession," he said.

Limehouse said the work will begin by fall. The effort will mean an estimated 14,000 port warehouse distribution jobs for Berkeley, Charleston,

Dorchester and Orangeburg counties. "This is really big for the Port of Charleston," Limehouse said.

He said at least two large distribution centers and two hotels will be built as a result of the interstate improvements.

"This is really big news. It's a great economic development opportunity," said state Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley.

The State Infrastructure Bank and other state agencies are partners in the effort, he said.

State Ports Authority spokeswoman Allison Skipper said the highway improvements would be a great benefit to the port and complement its $1.3 billion in capital improvements during the next 10 years.

Distribution centers are places to pack and unload shipping containers that travel through the port. Skipper said the stretch of I-26 that will be widened could be transformed into a hub of private distribution.

The SPA has committed $8 million to the effort, she said.

Limehouse said I-26 needs to be a six-lane road all the way to I-95. He also said it is critical that Charleston Harbor be deepened in a timely manner.