I-26 free and clear of construction for holiday travel

File/Paul Zoeller/Staff Traffic moves freely on Interstate 26 in North Charleston.

COLUMBIA - Lowcountry residents heading for the Upstate this holiday weekend should find no construction-related delays on Interstate 26.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation expects for all roads and all lanes to be open, unless an emergency surfaces. While I-26 has ongoing construction just east of here, workers cleared the roads as of Friday, and they will remain clear through July 13.

"There are no lane closures allowed during the holidays," said Pete Poore, spokesman for SCDOT. "And most barriers have to come down during the holidays. The overall idea is to make sure all of the travel lanes are open."

Poore said it is an approach South Carolina takes during every holiday. While South Carolinians won't have to worry about construction, gas prices will be at the forefront of their minds, with the average gas price at $3.34.

South Carolina's gas prices are 21 cents higher than in 2013, in part because of the unrest in Iraq, said the AAA.

The organization estimates nearly 500,000 Palmetto State residents will hit the road this holiday weekend -the highest number in more than 13 years.

The AAA also stressed caution and prudence. During the 2013 Independence Day weekend, 10 deaths were reported in the state, six of which involved alcohol.

"July 4th has proven to be one of the deadliest days of the year for traffic deaths," said David E. Parsons, President and CEO of AAA Carolinas in a written release. "The holiday spirit and corresponding celebrations seem to outweigh caution, courtesy and common sense by drivers this time of year. And we will have more motorists on the road this year."

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety also urged motorists to leave plenty of time for travel because of the expected traffic volumes.

The Highway Patrol is increasing enforcement activity around the state to assist travelers and prevent collisions, fatalities and injuries during the long holiday travel weekend.

As of Tuesday, 358 people have been killed on the state's highways so far this year, down slightly from 365 people through July 1, 2013.

Highway Patrol Col. Mike Oliver said the Highway Patrol will begin a special enforcement effort for the month of July called Operation L.I.F.E. (Lower Interstate Fatalities Effort) focusing on DUI, speeding and safety belt violations on our interstates. Motorists will see more troopers around congested, high-collision interstate areas.

"We cannot emphasize enough the importance of designating a driver and planning ahead if alcohol is part of your July 4 plans," he said.

And for those who are unaware, South Carolina banned texting while driving on June 9. There is a grace period of six months, but officers can still issue warnings.