COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Construction has started on a project expanding Interstate 20 to six lanes on a nearly 7-mile stretch east of Columbia.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation said the project started Monday night to widen I-20 from Interstate 77 to Spears Creek Church Road in eastern Richland County. The project should continue until May 2014.

The DOT says most lane closures will take place from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. during the 19-month project. The speed limit in the area will be dropped to 55 mph all the time and down to 45 mph when lanes are closed.

Officials say the project is needed because the current four lanes of I-20 carry an average of 67,500 vehicles a day.

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