Plans are being developed to alleviate traffic congestion in the I-385 Gray Court/Owings area, northwest of Laurens.
Growth at ZF Transmissions and development of The Connexial Center -- Laurens County’s newest industrial park -- are taxing the existing roads, notably Exit 19 off I-385, the Laurens County Development Commission board was told Tuesday.
Immediate repairs and road revisions would cost $4.2 million. A new I-386 interchange at Friendship Church Road would cost an estimated $57 million. All are needed to make the traffic flow smoothly, Thomas & Hutton consultants Brad Sanderson and John Culbreath told the board, meeting for the first time at Prisma Health Laurens County Memorial Hospital.
“Last year, we were up against the S.C. Port. This year, we were up against the Carolina Panthers,” LCDC Executive Director Jon Coleman said of the chance of getting big-ticket traffic money from the SC Department of Transportation.
The Gateway Project -- I-85 and I-385 -- is “costing billions,” the board was told, and soon there will be the Carolina Gateway Project in Columbia. That will fix “malfunction junction” - the intersection of I-26 and I-20.
Improving traffic flow in the I-385 industrial corridor between Simpsonville and Laurens is not a “billions” project, but the plans must compete for federal and state highway dollars.
“This project is $60 million and it will keep going up,” Culbreath said.
Coleman said that in November, the board will be presented a Resolution of Support that all county and municipal governments, and utility agencies will be asked to sign. Local delegates also will lobby the Laurens County Legislative Delegation for support and might send a team to Washington, D.C.
County Administrator Jon Caime said the effort to improve traffic flow in Gray Court was blocked eight years ago by historic-preservation groups. Now, he said, the intersection of Hwys 14 and 101 needs immediate attention. Better access off the interstate might relieve traffic congestion at that crossroads, the board was told.
“People from Woodruff who work at ZF are using Friendship Church Road as a back way,” Coleman said, “and that is causing problems.”
The problem might intensify as more houses are built around Fountain Inn.
Also, residential growth is continuing in the Woodruff suburbs of Spartanburg.
The Thomas & Hutton consultants are assisting Laurens County with traffic proposals targeted for 2039.
Residential growth might follow development in The Connexial Center, a project of LCDC and the Laurens Electric Co-op. A 150,000-square-foot spec building in the new industrial park had bidding last week. Water and natural gas services are done, and sewer is ready for bids. Soon, there will be a sign announcing the park on a 40-foot pole at The Connexial Center, which is visible from I-385.
In other business, Coleman said interest in Laurens County is picking up from a summer lull. There have been 12 RFIs (requests for information) since the previous board meeting. So far this year, there have been 39 RFIs, compared to 44 at this time last year. Two companies have made site visits, and another company is coming in this week, Coleman said.
Also, Coleman requested and the board approved a $75,000 expenditure for an updated Strategic Plan.
It will cost $95,000, and the S.C. Power Team has committed to a $25,000 grant toward that amount. The LCDC money will come from a multi-county industrial park investment fund, which has a $700,000 balance.