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I-26 road work described as crucial link to new port terminal

Exits 218 and 217 will be closed for construction in advance of the opening of the new port terminal in North Charleston. (WCIV)

It's the final hours for traffic entering and leaving I-26 at Spruill Avenue. A $220 million port access road project will eliminate exit 218 and redesign exit 217 at North Meeting Street.

The exits to and from North Meeting Street and Spruill Avenue will close at 7 p.m. Saturday. Changes to those interchanges are designed for the future of an economic hub for the state.

While the future is expected to be grand, the work to get there is expected to impact those living in nearby neighborhoods.

"I've been living here for the past 50 years," said Arthur Smith.

Smith remembers Union Heights before I-26 was built. Now, he worries about the closing of a convenient interstate exit.

"If I want to go to North Charleston, I'll have to go to lights, stoplights, and stoplights. With the interstate, just straight up to Northwoods Mall," he said.

Department of Transportation spokesman James Law said he understands the concerns of people who live in the area. He insists a new and improved roadway is a crucial link to carry trucks to the new port terminal on the former Navy base.

"The structures we have now are very old, first of all. They needed to be replaced anyway," he said.

"The traffic that we will put on these roads and on these exits will greatly increase when the port is open in about three years," Law continued.

Plans for the newly redesigned exit roads will reconnect some streets in Union Heights that were closed decades ago when I-26 was built. A business owner on Spruill Avenue looks forward to the changes.

"I'm thinking it will be to their advantage for the Heights to come back together like it was many years ago," Ernest Pinckney said.

Construction will be linking traffic over an old neighborhood to a new port terminal. Detour signs will be unveiled Saturday, and old bridges are scheduled to be demolished next month.

The new meeting street exit should open in Late 2019.

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