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Interstate 126

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Interstate 126 marker

Interstate 126

Lester Bates Freeway
I-126 highlighted in red
Route information
Auxiliary route of I-26
Maintained by SCDOT
Length3.68 mi[1][2] (5.92 km)
NHSEntire route
Major junctions
West end I-26 / US 76 in Columbia
East end US 21 / US 76 / US 176 / US 321 in Downtown Columbia
CountryUnited States
StateSouth Carolina
Highway system
SC 125 SC 126

Interstate 126 (I-126) is a spur route of I-26 entirely within the city limits of Columbia in the US state of South Carolina. It is entirely concurrent with U.S. Route 76 (US 76) and connects I-26 to Downtown Columbia. It is 3.68 miles (5.92 km) long and has three unnumbered interchanges between its junction with I-26 and its terminus at Gadsden Street. The Riverbanks Zoo is a major attraction on I-126.

Route description[edit]

I-126 with Columbia, South Carolina skyline

I-126 begins in northwestern Columbia at an interchange with parent route I-26 and US 76 along the Saluda River. The terminus is located near the Dutch Square shopping center and I-26's own interchange with I-20, nicknamed "Malfunction Junction", which includes a weaving ramp from I-126's westbound lanes to I-20.[3] The eight-lane freeway travels southeast along the Saluda River and passes the Riverbanks Zoo at Greystone Boulevard. It then crosses over the Broad River on the Timmerman Bridge near the mouth of the Saluda River. I-126 enters Downtown Columbia and reaches its easternmost interchange with Huger Street, which carries US 21, US 176, and US 321. The freeway continues east for several blocks on Elmwood Avenue, which carries the highways that Huger Street did, and ends at Gadsden Street near the South Carolina Governor's Mansion.[4][5]

I-126 is officially named the Lester Bates Freeway for former Columbia mayor Lester Bates.[6] All of its exits are unnumbered. The entire length of the freeway is concurrent with US 76, which continues west on I-26 towards Georgia and east to North Carolina.[5]


Construction started on I-126 in 1959, and it was completed in 1961 as a four-lane freeway spur of I-26. The last sections of both freeways opened on May 16, 1961, as part of National Highway Week.[7][8] In the early 1980s, it was widened to six lanes from I-26 to Greystone Boulevard and eight lanes from there to Huger Street.[9] By the 1990s, a lane was added eastbound from Colonial Life Boulevard to Greystone Boulevard and westbound from Greystone Boulevard to a new I-20 exit just before its western terminus. The eastern terminus of I-126 has fluctuated between Huger Street and Gadsden Street.[10]

I-126 was designated the Lester Bates Freeway in April 1986 in honor of former Columbia mayor Lester Bates, who served three terms in the 1960s.[11]


I-20/I-26 interchange[edit]

The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is proposing improvements to the Interstate corridor of I-20/I-26/I-126, including the system interchanges at I-20/I-26 and I-26/I-126 in Lexington and Richland counties. These improvements are proposed to increase mobility and enhance traffic operations by reducing existing traffic congestion within the I-20/I-26/I-126 corridor, while accommodating future traffic needs. The corridor's approximately 14 miles (23 km) of mainline Interstate include I-26 from exit 101 (Broad River Road/US 176) to east of the Saluda River, I-20 from the west of the Saluda River to west of the Broad River, and I-126 from I-26 to east of the interchange with Colonial Life Boulevard.[12]

Exit list[edit]

All exits are unnumbered. The entire route is in Columbia, Richland County.


I-26 / US 76 west to I-20 – Charleston, Spartanburg, Augusta, Florence
Western terminus; western end of US 76 concurrency; I-20 exit 64; I-26 exit 108
0.8011.289Colonial Life Boulevard to Bush River RoadWestbound exit and eastbound entrance
1.8502.977Greystone Boulevard – Riverbanks Zoo

US 21 south / US 176 east / US 321 south (Huger Street)
Western end of US 21/US 176/US 321 concurrency

US 21 north / US 76 east / US 176 west / US 321 north / Gadsden Street
Eastern terminus; eastern end of US 21/US 176/US 321 and US 76 concurrencies
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Interstate 126 Business[edit]

Interstate 126 Business marker

Interstate 126 Business

LocationColumbia, South Carolina
Length0.9 mi[13] (1,400 m)

Interstate 126 Business (I-126 Bus) was a boulevard-grade business spur of I-126 along Elmwood Avenue between Huger Street and Bull Street in concurrence with US 21/US 76/US 176/US 321. The route was never marked on state, county, or city highway maps.[citation needed] Signage proliferated along the westbound route in the late 1970s from Bull Street to Assembly Street. These signs were added with a major signage overhaul on Elmwood Avenue around 1978 when US 21/US 176/US 321 were moved from Assembly Street to Huger Street, SC 215 was removed from the route and SC 48 was extended up Assembly Street to Elmwood Avenue. However, by 2000, only one sign remained, and this was gone by the mid-2000s. At some point,[when?] I-126 absorbed part of the business spur from Huger Street to Gadsden Street. It is considered decommissioned as no current state or federal maps list it nor does any physical signage exist.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Table 2: Auxiliary Routes of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System Of Interstate and Defense Highways as of December 31, 2018". Route Log and Finder List. Federal Highway Administration. 2018. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Highway Logmile Report: I-126". South Carolina Department of Transportation. December 14, 2020. Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  3. ^ Feit, Noah (September 22, 2020). "$1.6 billion Malfunction Junction makeover plan gets OK, and projected start date". The State. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  4. ^ Google (January 22, 2022). "Interstate 126" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  5. ^ a b South Carolina Department of Transportation (2021). South Carolina Highways (PDF) (Map). Scale not given. Columbia, South Carolina: South Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved January 22, 2022. (As of January 1, 2021)
  6. ^ Beam, Adam (December 24, 2008). "City plans to name boulevard for MLK". The State. pp. A1, A10. Retrieved January 22, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "New Interstate 26's Final Line Opens Tuesday; Public Invited". The Columbia Record. May 13, 1961. p. 1A. Retrieved February 1, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "Ceremonies Officially Open Tri-Level Traffic Exchange". The State. May 17, 1961. p. 7A. Retrieved February 1, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ "Agency severing link with jobs experiment". The State. December 7, 1984. p. 2C. Retrieved February 1, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ General Highway Map, York County, South Carolina (PDF) (Map). Cartography by SCDOT. South Carolina Department of Transportation. 1963. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  11. ^ Corvini, Margaret (April 19, 1986). "Lane change". The State. p. 1B. Retrieved January 22, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ "Construction Phasing".
  13. ^ Google (May 19, 2013). "Overview map of I-126 Bus. (Columbia)" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved May 19, 2013.

External links[edit]

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