Traffic backs up on either side of construction on Sunset Drive as cars wait for a construction worker to allow traffic to pass one side at a time. (Photo by Jocelyn Dussault/Carolina News and Reporter) 

Commuters traveling on Sunset Drive in North Columbia are being slowed down by the much-anticipated $5.2 million improvements in Richland County that began Monday. 

Bumper-to-bumper traffic caused by construction detours could last for the rest of the year as Richland County transportation crews complete improvements aimed at improving road safety and drainage in nearby neighborhoods. 

“This section of road has needed this for a long time,” Columbia resident, Justin Martin, said in a comment on a Facebook post by Richland County. “A lot of foot traffic walking on the shoulder for years.

Richland County announced March 14 it will spend a groundbreaking $5.2 million to add a 5-foot-wide pedestrian sidewalk along a 0.75-mile stretch of Sunset Drive from Makeway Drive – near River Drive – to Elmhurst Road near North Main Street just north of downtown.

It will be paid for through the county’s Transportation Penny program.

The improvements are part of wider county effort to improve safety and expand access for pedestrians traveling between the Broad River Road area and North Main, Michael Green, transportation manager for Richland County, said in a press release.

While thru traffic may not like the traffic caused by construction, residents are excited for the improvements. 

Super excited for the sidewalks coming to Sunset in the Keenan Terrace Neighborhood,” Richland County resident Crista Williams wrote on Facebook. “The residents have fought a very long time for funds to be designated to sidewalks in their Neighborhood.”

Other improvements are aimed at improving the drainage system of nearby homes in the Earlewood neighborhood. 

The county will relocate a nearby water line and add structures to improve drainage along the corridor, including enhancements at driveways and a retaining wall at a culvert.

The upgrades are scheduled for completion in December, according to Richland County.

A map shows where Sunset Drive connects with Makeway Drive and Elmhurst Road. (Map by Jocelyn Dussault on Mapcreator/Carolina News and Reporter)

Richland County staff members put shovels in the ground at 301 Sunset Drive for council members to mark the improvements at a celebration March 26. (Photo courtesy of Richland County’s Facebook page/Carolina News and Reporter)