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City of West Columbia joins the Lexington Medical Center, the Town of Lexington, and SCDOT to improv

West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – The City of West Columbia’s city council voted Tuesday night to join the SCDOT, the Lexington Medical Center, and the Town of Lexington in a project to alleviate traffic congestion along Sunset Boulevard. This will be done at no cost to the City of West Columbia! Traffic will see a marked decrease by adding an additional string of traffic signals to the Town of Lexington’s synchronized signal system. The system addition will cross I-20, pass the Lexington Medical Center, cross I-26, and continue into the City of West Columbia. The last of the lights being synchronized with the system will be at Sunset Boulevard and Hummingbird Drive.

This addition to the synchronization project is being financed by the Lexington Medical Center. To all agencies involved, the need to add quicker access to LMC’s main campus and their emergency department was key to the cooperative efforts of all governments involved. Everyone agrees this was more about safety than anything else. Traffic on the LMC’s portion of Sunset Boulevard is already congested. The addition of the 500,000+ square foot new tower at the hospital will certainly add to that congestion as it fills with patients and new staff.

The new section of synchronized signals will also be equipped with devices that can receive signals from approaching emergency vehicles’ warning lights. These devices on the ambulances will “communicate” to traffic signals that an emergency vehicle is approaching an intersection. That traffic signal can quickly run through its normal safety cycle of yellow, then red on the side streets of Sunset giving the emergency vehicle the green light quickly. This only happens while their lights and sirens are in use. It will help expedite their movement to and from the hospital in an emergency.

The traffic improvements began in Lexington when the town stepped up to the plate and started working on the traffic problems that had been building over time. They first widened the intersections of Park and Butler Streets, and then Old Chapin Road. That was done with a federal grant according to Mayor Steve MacDougall. There was money left from that project that helped kick off the synchronized signal project.

The remaining signals already included and in operation in Lexington were financed by a special purpose tax on prepared food and drinks passed some years ago. The funds raised from that tax were to be specifically used for traffic improvement projects. Synchronized signals were the first things Lexington spent that funding on. Since installing several phases of those signals, green light times have improved dramatically moving traffic through the town faster. Lexington also installed the one-way pairs at Lake and Main and are currently improving the intersection at Sunset Boulevard and Ginny Lane. More improvements are set to come.

The new phase of signals going into West Columbia will add 10 intersections to the system. When you combine all the synchronized signals in the system, it will include a total of 45 intersections. The actual traffic signals are owned by the SCDOT, but the governments and agencies that are participating are taking a proactive approach to alleviate traffic. There was no SCDOT funding currently available for traffic issues on Sunset Boulevard, Augusta Road, and the other main thoroughfares in the area. Because the SCDOT owns the traffic signals, they will be the coordinating agency that would be contacted if something is wrong with the system. They could then repair any part they control or contact the entity that may be handling the synchronization.

Intergovernmental cooperation is nothing new for Lexington County. The Town of Lexington works with Cayce to dispose of waste water as does much of the county. Most of the fresh water flowing across the county is provided by the City of West Columbia’s Lake Murray facility. Lexington County comes into play with Emergency Preparedness, much of the 911 Communications, and a large part of the fire protection. Lexington County also provides all the emergency medical services countywide.

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