Interstate 126 joins the capital city of Columbia with Interstate 26. The 3.68-mile freeway spans the delta of the Broad and Congaree Rivers to the northwest of the Congaree Vista neighborhood of the city en route to Riverbanks Zoo and the St. Andrews area. I-126 is formally named the Lester Bates Freeway.

A pair of bridges accommodate eight lanes of traffic on Interstate 126 above the Broad River and the adjacent Columbia Canal. The spans link Downtown Columbia with the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens area. The Three Rivers Greenway travels between the two waterways below the freeway and an adjacent CSX Railroad bridge. Photo taken April 14, 2012.

U.S. 76 overlaps with the six to eight-lane freeway from Interstate 26 to Elmwood Avenue. Interchanges are unnumbered, a distinction I-126 alone holds in the S.C. Interstate system.

Signs posted along Interstate 26 east within the "Malfunction Junction" interchange complex of Interstates 20 and 126 display I-126 with "Route I-126". Signs were changed in an effort to reduce confusion to motorists entering Interstate 26 east from nearby Interstate 20. In The State news article "A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE? - TRAVELERS FOLLOW THE SIGNS TO CROSSROADS OF CONFUSION" published on May 26, 1994, director of traffic engineering at the Department of Transportation Richard Werts commented regarding the motorist confusion of I-26 and 126 "The folks who number highways shouldn't have chosen 126 as a spur off I-26. He said planners have been trying to figure out a way to give it a new number. They've even gone to the extent of taking 126 off some of the main directional signs where I-26 East splits off and heads to Charleston."

Widening of Interstate 126 to eight overall lanes between Interstate 26 and Greystone Boulevard was completed in conjunction with an expansion of Greystone Boulevard to five lanes by November 1988.


Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 east
U.S. 76 leaves the Interstate 26 eastbound mainline for Interstate 126 toward downtown Columbia. The freeway continues the three-lane capacity of the parent eastward underneath the Bush River Road off-ramp from Interstate 26 westbound. Beyond that overpass is the first set of reassurance markers for the tandem. Photo taken 04/14/12.
A closer look at the previous set of shields posted for Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 east. This is the only set posted along the eastbound mainline. Photo taken 08/05/00.
A wye interchange adds traffic to Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 east from Colonial Life Boulevard, 1.25 miles out from the Greystone Boulevard off-ramp. Photo taken 04/14/12.
Interstate 126 swells to eight overall lanes after Colonial Life Boulevard. An upcoming exits precedes the two interchanges of Interstate 126 eastbound (Greystone Boulevard and Huger Street). Columbia references the southbound off-ramp to Huger Street (U.S. 21-176-321 south). Photo taken 04/14/12.
A loop ramp departs Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 east for Greystone Boulevard. Greystone Boulevard ends at Candi Lane west and Rivermont Drive east, frontage roads along side I-126 to the south. The entrance to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden resides off of Rivermont Drive via Wildlife Parkway. Photo taken 04/15/12.
Eastbound drivers enter the final mile of Interstate 126. Huger Street leads south from the freeway end along western reaches of the central business district near the State House and University of South Carolina at Columbia campus. Photo taken 04/14/12.
Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 maintain eight lanes across the Broad River. The right two lanes default onto Huger Street U.S. 21-176-321 south while the mainline continues east onto Elmwood Avenue (Business Spur I-126 east and U.S. 76 east & 21-176-321 north). Photo taken 04/14/12.
Crossing the Broad River into the downtown area of the capital city. Ahead is the tri-level stack interchange of Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 with Huger Street south and Elmwood Avenue east. Unsigned is for Elmwood Avenue east is Business Spur Interstate 126. The designation applies to 0.5 miles of Elmwood Avenue. Photo taken 04/14/12.
Interstate 126 east reaches the ramp to Huger Street south. Huger Street carries U.S. 21-176-321 between Elmwood Avenue and Blossom Street near USC-Columbia. There the trio turn west to Cayce. Photo taken 04/14/12.
Traffic continuing east along Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 merges with Huger Street north to form the mainline of Elmwood Avenue. U.S. 76 joins U.S. 21-176-321 east for a five-block overlap to Main Street. Three blocks east of that junction, Elmwood Avenue encounters South Carolina 277 (Bull Street), where U.S. 76 turns south to downtown. Photo taken 04/14/12.
Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 west
Rising onto the Elmwood Street viaduct over Wayne Street and a former CSX railroad line from U.S. 76 west & U.S. 21-176-321 south. Business Spur I-126 transitions into the westbound beginning of Interstate 126 here as U.S. 21-176-321 prepare to turn southward onto Huger Street. Photo taken 04/14/12.
Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 westbound part ways with U.S. 21-176-321 south at the Huger Street off-ramp. U.S. 21-176-321 continue south to Blossom Street along western reaches of the central business district.
Spartanburg is the control point for Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 for the connection onto I-26 west. An Interstate 20 trailblazer accompanies the pull-through panel, as Interstate 126 ends just south of "Malfunction Junction", the interchange between Interstates 20 and 26. Photo taken 04/14/12.
The Columbia Freeway spur is officially designated the Lester Bates Freeway, who served as mayor of Columbia between 1958 and 1970. Photo taken 12/31/12.
Traffic from Huger Street north joins Interstate 126 from underneath the tri-level stack interchange. Photo taken 12/31/12.
2 photos
2 photos
Two-lane ramps from Huger Street north and Elmwood Avenue west combine at the Broad River bridge. Photo taken 06/01/07. Second photo taken 12/31/12.
A CSX Railroad line emerges along the south side of Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 as the freeway spans the Broad River. Waters from the river below combine with the adjacent Saluda River to form the Congaree River between Columbia and West Columbia. Photo taken 12/31/12.
Traffic combines at the Broad River, one mile east of the parclo interchange with Greystone Boulevard at the Riverbanks Zoo. Photo taken 12/31/12.
An interchange sequence sign posted at the end of the Broad River bridge features all three westbound interchanges of the Columbia Freeway spur. Photo taken 12/31/12.
A conventional mileage sign outlines the distances to Spartanburg (via Interstate 26 west) and Greenville (via I-26 west to I-385 north). Photo taken 12/31/12.
One half mile east of the Greystone Boulevard off-ramp on Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 west. Greystone Boulevard travels north from Candi Lane and Rivermont Drive to Broad River Road (U.S. 176). Photo taken 12/31/12.
Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 maintain eight lanes to the Interstate 26 eastbound off-ramp. Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens resides just south of the Greystone Boulevard interchange. Photo taken 12/31/12.
A look at the original button copy overheads posted at the Greystone Boulevard exit of Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 west. Photo taken 08/05/00.
Attached to the Greystone Boulevard over crossing are exit signs for the final two interchanges of Interstate 126. I-126 reaches the wye interchange for Colonial Life Boulevard in one mile. Photo taken 12/31/12.
A interchange sequence sign includes the distance to "Malfunction Junction" (I-20 and 26) while defaulting as the one half mile exit sign for Colonial Life Boulevard. The forthcoming off-ramp forms the northbound beginning of the surface boulevard. Photo taken 12/31/12.
The lone set of reassurance markers posted for Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 reside between Greystone and Colonial Life Boulevards. I-126 sees a 60 mile per speed limit between the Broad River and Interstate 26. Photo taken 12/31/12.
Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 west at Colonial Life Boulevard northbound. The roadway acts as a connector between the freeway and nearby Bush River Road.
Bush River Road branches northwest from U.S. 176 (River Road) to unincorporated Lexington County suburbs and the town of Irmo. The road also sees an interchange with Interstate 26, adjacent to the I-126 end. Photo taken 12/31/12.
Original guide signs that were posted at the Colonial Life Boulevard off-ramp. The transition to westbound Interstate 26 features an Exit 107 overhead for the nearby Interstate 20 full cloverleaf interchange. Photo taken 08/05/00.
A flyover ramp leaves Interstate 126 & U.S. 76 next for Interstate 26 east, joining the freeway south of the Saluda River for interests to Orangeburg and Charleston. Photo taken 12/31/12.
Button copy versions of the overheads posted at the Interstate 26 eastbound flyover of I-126 west. Photo taken 08/05/00.
Continuing west, motorists split with the right lane circumventing the merge with I-26 west to form an auxiliary lane to "Malfunction Junction" with Interstate 20 (Exit 107). Photo taken 12/31/12.
The Interstate 126 mainline defaults onto Interstate 26 west with two overall lanes. U.S. 76 remains on the Interstate system to the Exit 101, north of Irmo. Photo taken 12/31/12.
An Interstate 20 sign takes the place of a conventional exit gore sign below the Exit 108A off-ramp of I-26 west onto Bush River Road. Drivers remaining on the I-126 mainline to the left may still access I-20, but will contend with merging traffic from the lane to the right. Photo taken 12/31/12.
Additional traffic joins the I-20 lane from Bush River Road at Morninghill Drive. A loop ramp lies to the west from Bush River Road to I-26 ahead of the Saluda River. Photo taken 12/31/12.
The ending Interstate 126 mainline joins the left side of Interstate 26, one half mile out from Exits 107A/B with Interstate 20. Exits serving the St. Andrews area follow over the next three miles. Photo taken 06/01/07.



Photo Credits:

08/05/00, 06/01/07, 04/14/12, 04/15/12, 12/31/12 by AARoads

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Interstate 26

Page Updated 02-11-2013.