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'Malfunction Junction': Expect weekend road closure on I-20/I-26 as part of SCDOT Columbia Crossroads project

SCDOT will temporarily close the exit ramp connecting I-20 westbound at I-26 westbound, an area Midlands residents refer to as "Malfunction Junction."

COLUMBIA, S.C. — If you’re planning to be in the St. Andrews area this weekend, be prepared for some delays. Starting Friday night, the ramp from I-20 westbound onto I-26 westbound will be closed. It’s part of South Carolina Department of Transportation's second phase of the Carolina Crossroads project

"Malfunction junction" is the nickname Midlands residents have given to the intersection of I-20 and I-26 near St. Andrews.

"Everybody from Columbia or even the surrounding areas, they know about malfunction junction," Newberry resident Travis Benson explains. "It’s terrible. I mean like its always been terrible. Everybody hates it. I guess it’s a necessary evil if you will, but how long have people been complaining about malfunction junction? As long as I can remember."

Some residents, like Charlton Jones from Blythewood, say they avoid the area altogether.

"I don’t go that way on a regular day. It’s ridiculous traffic over there every day of the week. I don’t go over there," Jones says. "I live on Blythewood side and I try to avoid that area at all times."

Zion Robinson works at a gas station near the area. He says people come inside and ask for help navigating the intersection often.

"They do come in asking us ‘Do you know another way we can get over there?" Robinson explains. "And I have to tell them ‘No sir! Not really!"

This weekend, SCDOT will temporarily close the exit ramp connecting I-20 westbound. Instead of merging straight onto I-26 to go toward Harbison, drivers will have to take a detour. I decided to test out the modified route to see how long it takes, and it added about two minutes and 25 seconds to my trip.

I tried it out during a low traffic time, but residents like Derry Jackson say when people get off work, "it’s bumper to bumper and so it might take you, whereas sometime it may take you maybe 15 minutes to get somewhere, it may end up taking you 30, 35 minutes to get somewhere because the traffic is just one car after the next."

It's is part of the 14-mile reconfiguration, which aims to reduce congestion and improve safety with a redesigned corridor. 

Some drivers, like Columbia resident Zhia Littleton, worry this detour might confuse drivers who aren't familiar with the area.

"It’s only if you local that you probably will understand, but if you’re not local then you wont’ understand," Littleton believes. "Especially people who travel, like you never know who’s traveling over here or who’s not from here and then y'all just do this and all that going back and forth they gonna get confused and feel like they are not in the right area."

Residents like Anna Pearlstein tell me they’re welcoming this change, even if it means a little extra drivetime this weekend.

"We definitely need that area to be a little bit safer," Pearlstein says.

"I think it’s long overdue. It should have been done probably 20 years ago, so I'm glad they're finally doing it," Lexington resident Donnie Wise shares. "I know this is just the beginning of it getting worse before it gets way better, so hopefully the shutdown this weekend won’t affect too many people, but I know it's gonna make the cloverleaf loop insane so I'm going to stay in Lexington and not come over to St. Andrews and Irmo all weekend."

"I think it’s hard to get on an off. There’s always a lot of traffic and you know South Carolina isn’t known for the safest drivers so it’s basically like an accident waiting to happen. I think every time you have to use malfunction junction, you get a little nervous," Benson adds. "I guess [the detour is] something that they have to do. Hopefully it’ll make it better and malfunction junction will actually function."

The closure starts tomorrow at 9 p.m., and it will reopen by Monday at 6 a.m.

News 19 asked SCDOT if this weekend’s weather will have any potential impact on construction. A representative says the closure will end as scheduled “regardless of weather.”

While that road is closed, Columbia Police department says SCDOT will post signs. The department urges drivers to stay alert, slow down, buckle up and avoid distractions.

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