A plan to alleviate congestion along Mauldin's East Butler Road corridor would use privately owned land and likely displace residents, according to the South Carolina Department of Transportation, with some in the area raising concerns.
The proposed project, which has been years in the making, seeks to ease traffic on one of the city's busiest thoroughfares — which cuts through central Mauldin and intersects with I-385 and US 276 — as the area's population continues to grow.
SCDOT published details of the proposed changes Monday evening on a website dedicated to the project and an in-person public meeting is scheduled for Jan. 14 at the Mauldin Cultural Center. SCDOT will accept public comments through Feb. 5.
Mauldin Mayor Terry Merritt said many of the concerns surrounding the project center on the intersection where Old Mill Road and Bethel Drive meet East Butler Road.
According to the recently released plans, SCDOT would widen Old Mill Road and divert Bethel Road so it connected with East Butler farther northeast. In doing so, SCDOT would possibly force the occupants of up to eight homes or businesses to relocate, bisect a 10-acre, private property, and build a bridge over an existing pond and wetland. It would also add a traffic light where Bethel meets East Butler, Merritt said.
The project would use up to 10 acres of private land and create a new intersection at Bethel Drive and Fargo Street. Merritt said residents have reached out to him to express concern about the project and the impact it will have on the area.
"The (proposed) plan totally surprised all of us when they had their initial stakeholders meeting," he said. "We had never heard it from any of the engineering firms that we had talked to."
In 2008, SCDOT proposed widening East Butler to five lanes, with a median lane, bicycle lanes and sidewalks, according to the Butler Road project page.
"The public was not receptive to the proposed changes, citing that it would encourage growth and higher speeds through the corridor," the page states.
In 2014, Mauldin received funding from the Greenville-Pickens Area Transportation Study to conduct its own analysis and released a final report in 2016. The report recommended three or four lanes with updates to certain intersections and the addition of bike and pedestrian lanes. It also suggested Old Mill Road be moved so that it ran directly into Bethel Drive. Merritt said residents and business owners largely bought into that plan.
But those changes would have brought Old Mill Road through a trailer park, displacing up to 13 residences or businesses, according to the recently released project overview. Up to 10 of those would be homes in the trailer park, Merritt said.
Another plan SCDOT created following the 2016 report would move Bethel Drive to connect with Old Mill Road, rather than the other way around. But that would put Bethel running straight through a group of townhomes, forcing up to 17 residences or businesses to relocate.
The proposals in that plan and in the 2016 report were, "eliminated from further analysis mainly due to right-of-way impacts and relocations," according to the project page.
Merritt said he is encouraging anyone with concerns related to the project to reach out to SCDOT and to attend the Jan. 14 meeting.
Citing COVID-19 restrictions, SCDOT has limited in-person attendance for that meeting and asked anyone who plans to go to register ahead of time. Merritt said he believes the agency should have scheduled more meetings and hosted them in a larger space to safely accommodate more people.
"They (SCDOT) do not want the citizens of Mauldin to show up as a group," he said. "They want to keep everyone one on one where they can have an easier time with them."
SCDOT Assistant Director of Communications Ted Creech said the plan has not been finalized yet and the agency is hoping to gather as much input as possible.
The project would also include the addition of a sidewalk, a multiuse path, curbs and gutters and updates to the North Main Street, Murray Drive and Fairfield Drive, and Brookbend Road intersections. Two culverts on East Butler over Gilder Creek would be replaced with a bridge.