Bishopville bypass project to move forward, cost an additional $ - - Columbia, South Carolina

Bishopville bypass project to move forward, cost an additional $1M

Tractor-trailers drive through Bishopville's Main Street. Tractor-trailers drive through Bishopville's Main Street.

The proposed bypass to allow trucks to go around downtown Bishopville is continuing and will cost an additional $1 million. However, the S.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration will re-evaluate all possible routes before starting construction of a new truck route.

SCDOT spokesman Pete Poore said that the two departments will move forward with an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to “provide a more detailed study to find a solution that meets the project's stated purpose and need, while still addressing local concerns.”

Poore said this decision came as a result of a Feb. 19 public information meeting, where there was a lot of support for the project, but opposition also came for the current route.

Lee County Administrator Alan Watkins described the new study as a “clean slate review” since all possible routes, even those previously eliminated, will be reviewed again. In addition, there will be an Ad Hoc Committee of local leaders created to meet with SCDOT and FHWA to ensure local input is considered during the project's progress.

SCDOT first brought the bypass project to the table in 2012, but it faced much opposition even then with the routes and community concerns that the bypass would pull business away from the city's downtown area.

WIS obtained written comments SCDOT received following a public comment period a couple of months ago after filing a Freedom of Information Act request. This public comment session was designed to take a look at a different route to determine if the community's view of the project changed.

Majority of those who commented did disagree with the current project plan for the bypass, stating it would divide farmland, be a safety issue for children and create more noise near homes. Several residents in opposition asked for SCDOT to consider putting the project in the northwest side of the county – completely opposite of its current proposed route, which turns off of U.S. 15 less than a mile from Interstate 20 and goes around downtown, crossing over highways 154 and 341.

Bishopville resident Mike Morrow is one in opposition of the new bypass, stating it is not necessary.

“I don't think we need a bypass,” Morrow wrote in a comment to SCDOT. “The traffic county numbers are old and greatly overstate volume. We need to fix the road we have. We don't need to ruin great farmland with a useless bypass.”

Another Bishopville resident John Latimer wrote putting the bypass on the northwest side of the county makes better sense.

“If a bypass is built, it should be placed on the other side of town,” he wrote. “It would be cheaper (to) use existing roads and right-a-ways and (has) less congestion.”

Those in agreement with the bypass project explained it will create a better downtown traffic flow for businesses and patrons.

Lee County Fire Marshal and Assistant Emergency Management Director Capt. Brandon Holloman wrote that removing truck traffic from Bishopville's Main Street will “create a safer environment.”

“By moving the truck traffic off of U.S. 15 (or) Main Street would allow pedestrians, emergency vehicles and passengers' vehicles to move around more safely and efficiently,” Holloman wrote in a letter to SCDOT on Feb. 19. “The project would reduce our response to collisions and fires, which often involves trucks with the City of Bishopville. It will also mitigate the high risk of a potential hazardous material incident from freight vehicles within the City of Bishopville.”

Lee County Public Works Director Steven Atkinson agreed that moving the trucks away from downtown is key.

“These trucks are creating congestion in the downtown and also doing a tremendous amount of damage to the Main Street area of town,” Atkinson wrote in a letter to SCDOT dated March 3. “A truck route will not only alleviate the congestion, but also protect the streetscape that was put in place with federal grant money, which is slowly being town up by the large trucks and farm equipment.”

Watkins said the EIS can take up to 36 months, and the total estimated cost for the project is now at $20 million, with its current design and the additional money needed for the EIS. At least $5.6 million of those funds will come from federal funds previously allocated to the truck bypass, and about another $14 million is federal money that is at the discretion of the Santee-Lynches Regional Council on Governments. Watkins said Lee County is now up to receive this federal funding from the COG and plans to have it go toward the bypass project.

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