Interstate 85 and Interstate 385 in and around Greenville will essentially be a construction zone for the next five or six years.
South Carolina Department of Transportation officials are accepting public comment on two options still under consideration for the biggest portion of it – a $235- million rebuilding of the I-85 and I-385 interchange.
The project is expected revamp one of Greenville’s busiest and most congested stretches of highway.
About 100,000 cars a day travel I-85 near Woodruff and Pelham roads.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a challenge,” said SCDOT program manager Tommy Elrod.
The DOT is no longer considering totally eliminating access to Woodruff Road off I-85 after protests from Woodruff Road businesses and residents of The Cascades, a senior living development in Verdae.
Those options would have cost more, had slightly more environmental impact and had a lot more public protests while yielding not much better traffic and safety benefits than the other two options, Elrod said.
One option under consideration would close the I-385 southbound ramp as an option for traffic going to I-85 and then Woodruff Road. Drivers on I-385 south would have to access Woodruff Road on a dedicated exit or go to Roper Mountain Road.
The other plan would keep the existing ramps but put northbound I-385 traffic on a loop.
“One design gives full access and the other improves the loop ramp but takes away some of the access you currently have on Woodruff,” he said.
The DOT will take public comments on the options for the next two weeks. Information is available from the department’s Web site at www.scdot.org. Go to the public forum section and then click on public hearings to get information about the project and the specific proposals.
Comments can be mailed to: Tommy Elrod, SCDOT, 252 S. Pleasantburg Dr., Greenville SC 29607 or emailed to ElrodJT@scdot.org.
The feedback will be used to finalize a preferred plan for the work. A public hearing will be held after the completion of an environmental assessment. A design-build team could be selected for the project in 2012 and construction start in 2013.
In the meantime, a project to widen I-385 from Simpsonville to near Woodruff Road is under way, Elrod said.
That project should take about two years to finish.
The $65 million project calls for one lane to be added in each direction for a 5.5-mile stretch between Simpsonville and Mauldin. The interstate on each end of that stretch is already six lanes, Elrod said.
More than 60,000 cars a day travel that stretch of I-385.
In addition, another I-85 project is planned but construction has not yet started.
That project will extend the merge lane on I-85 north from I-385 that ends shortly before Pelham Road all the way to the off ramp. A fourth lane will also be built going south between Pelham and I-385.
Construction will be done at night – something that will draw the projects out longer – to maintain traffic on two of the busiest highways in Greenville, Elrod said.
He said motorists are urged to slow down for safety reasons during construction.