Congestion relief needed along Upstate I-85 corridor - FOX Carolina 21

Congestion relief needed along Upstate I-85 corridor

Posted: Updated: Nov 13, 2012 10:06 AM
Traffic moves along an Upstate interstate. (File/FOX Carolina) Traffic moves along an Upstate interstate. (File/FOX Carolina)

A 22-mile stretch of an Upstate interstate is one of the worst places to get caught during rush hour in South Carolina.

From White Horse Road in Greenville County to Highway 129 in Spartanburg County along Interstate 85, drivers often spend more time with their foot on the brake rather than on the gas.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation and local lawyers knows it's a problem and the stretch of roadway is in need of congestion relief.

The area has not been widened since the mid-1990s - and it won't be widened anytime soon, according to Michael Dennis with the SCDOT.

Dennis said money is a major road block, with 90 percent of interstate funding coming from the federal government while the rest comes from the state.

"To fix some of the problems, to widen I-85 to meet the growing needs, we are talking $600 to 800 million," Dennis told FOX Carolina. "To do our interstate budget on a yearly basis is $200 million."

The SCDOT released a study in June that looked at cost-effective improvement for the traffic jams such as reconfiguring the lanes, adding electronic signage for travel information, working with trucking companies to shift tractor-trailer traffic to off peak hours and improving public transportation.

"We undertook this study to try to find a way to squeeze much life out of the existing system as we have," Dennis said.

There is no word yet if and when any of the recommendations will be implemented. But one big project in the works that could help with congestion is the reconstruction of the interchange at Interstates 85 and 385 in Greenville County.

SCDOT officials said the state is racing against the clock to improve the 22-mile stretch of I-85, especially considering growth in the Upstate.

"If the land use projection ends up being true and the models [used] to determine the future traffic, the congestion on the roadways will get worse," Dennis said.

In a three-year span, more than 2,000 accidents happened along the I-85 Upstate corridor. According to the SCDOT study, there were 2,153 wrecks between Jan. 1, 2007 and May 1, 2010. Seven of those were fatal wrecks involving nine deaths.

The study also found that the crash rate is higher along the 22-mile stretch than any other interstate route in the state, with the most common crashes being rear-end wrecks, vehicles running off the road and sideswipes.

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