Probable traffic woes have Greenville residents concerned
DECEMBER 17, 2009 8:42 a.m. (0)
The project to rehabilitate the state’s oldest stretch of interstate type highway will be done in three phases. The first phase, raising overpass bridges to accommodate 10 inches of new concrete surface, has been finished.
Phase two, closing northbound lanes by taking down the I-385 flyover bridge at the intersection with Interstate 26 and resurfacing the northbound lanes starts Jan. 4.
After that phase in completed, southbound traffic will be routed down the newly resurfaced northbound lanes and will join with I-26 at Clinton. Traffic from Columbia heading to Greenville will continue to be routed up I-26 until project completion in August.
Nick Wolf, project supervisor for McCarthy Improvements, the Iowa company contracted by the state highway department to do the work, said his crews are poised to go up and down the 15-mile stretch of I-385 due for resurfacing.
McCarthy has set up two concrete making plants at the intersection of I-385 and U.S. 221 at Laurens, Wolf said. Those two plants will run steadily during the resurfacing project.
Speaking at a final public drop-in on the project in Laurens, state officials said closing the northbound lanes of I-385 for eight months is the most cost effective way to do needed repair work on the heavily used interstate.
DOT officials have said keeping part of northbound I-385 open could stretch the project over as much as three years.
The road is the main artery connecting Greenville and Columbia. Southbound traffic will continue to move down the I-385 corridor throughout.
Most of the through traffic heading north on I-385 will be routed up Interstate 26 to Interstate 85 at Spartanburg, said Mark C. Lester, Upstate regional traffic engineer.
Lester said the detour means an extra 17 miles of driving for motorists heading through to Greenville.
Much of the local traffic for Laurens county will leave the interstate at the S.C. 56 exit near Clinton and will follow well-defined detour routes.
“We actually expect a good bit of local traffic to exit at Clinton,” Lester said. “Our traffic surveys indicate there is a pretty high volume of local traffic using I-385.”
Critics of the road closing have said Greenville wasn’t sufficiently consulted by DOT and that the eight-month timeframe was unrealistic to complete work. The detour will also mean millions of dollars in extra fuel costs for trucking companies as well as lost business along the I-385 corridor in Greenville County.
Estimates of traffic bound for Greenville along I-385 have been put as high as 5,000 vehicles a day.
Wolf said he was confident his 200 to 250 workers could get the job done in the time allotted to them, “barring any unforeseen changes in the weather.”
“I’m as glad to see all this rain as anyone,” Wolf said, “But enough is enough. We’re hoping for good weather through our construction period.”
DOT’s failure to consult with Greenville officials has drawn fire since the project first sprang to light in the fall.
Actually, DOT had been consulting with officials in Laurens County since before phase one of the project started in the spring of 2009.
It was revealed in a special meeting of the highway commission board that DOT rules precluded consulting with Greenville officials because none of the work itself will happen in Greenville County.
Sen. David Thomas, who chairs the Greenville-Pickens Area Transportation Study commission (GPATS), has said he knew nothing of the project until after it was moving forward.
By that time Greenville officials found out about the plan it was too late to stop it, Thomas said.
Tony Chapman, DOT deputy secretary for engineering, has said there are significant financial incentives for McCarthy to finish work early and a $50,000 per day penalty for missing the August deadline.
Chapman has also said work would be ongoing 24 hours a day to finish on time.
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