Bishopville divided - again - over proposed bypass - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Bishopville divided - again - over proposed bypass

Tractor-trailers drive through Bishopville's Main Street. Tractor-trailers drive through Bishopville's Main Street.
BISHOPVILLE, SC (WIS) - Bishopville is divided over a proposed bypass. It's a bypass that Bishopville City Council shot down, but now it's back.

Lee County administrators said $20 million in federal funds have been allocated to build this bypass. If the county doesn't use the money for this bypass project, those millions will go to another neighboring county with its own infrastructure needs.

That's why the county is putting its support behind it.

Two years after he thought he'd heard the last of it, the resurrected proposal for a four-mile truck bypass is stealing farmer William McElveen's peace of mind.

"Do you know how hard it is to put together a farm to be able to have it for the rest of your life, and your son and all of a sudden, they say, ‘No, we want it. We're going to split it wide open.'"

But county leaders said the bypass wouldn't leave anybody homeless. It would, however, help boost economic development.

"It doesn't go through any homes,” said Lee County Administrator Alan Watkins. “The county was also looking at it for economic development potential. To open up land outside the town of Bishopville, which is the most developed community, to try and open up land for growth and development."

Most importantly, according to Watkins, it would help alleviate the traffic of more than 1,800 trucks that go through downtown Bishopville every day.

"Six of seven city council members agree that there's a problem with truck traffic downtown,” Watkins said. “We've got about 33 or 34 local property owners or merchants from downtown who have signed on."

One county council member actually owns land on the bypass route.

He, and others like McElveen, would be forced to sell some of their land. Watkins said that's just a coincidence.

"Local officials had no control over where the preferred alignment was designed,” Watkins said. “That was done at the federal and state level."

Several business owners worry the bypass will drive all traffic and business out of downtown.

"The majority of cars, I would think, will continue to drive through Main Street,” Watkins said. “It will be a two-lane road with multiple stoplights at intersections. So it's not going to be any quicker to take it than to come straight through town."

S.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration do not need approval from local leaders to move forward.

There was a public hearing in Bishopville on Feb. 19. SCDOT will take comment regarding the project until March 6. After that, they will make a decision regarding how to move forward.

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