Commentary, Local, Mauldin

Mauldin Traffic – SC-DOT’s Way, or Our Way?

What is causing Mauldin’s traffic congestion?

By Scott Crosby – scott@scottschoice.com – www.scottschoice.com

Anyone who is not aware of Mauldin’s traffic problems has not been near the intersection of Main Street and Butler Road during rush hour. They have never experienced traffic backed up on East Butler Road from Main Street all the way back to Mauldin High School. They have never been on West Butler, backed up from Ashmore Bridge Road all the way out past the Library. They have never been on Ashmore Bridge Road during rush hour.
What is the cause of all that traffic? That is the one question that is easy to answer: between 10,000 and 30,000 people are moving into Greenville County every year. Those newcomers are looking for (1) affordable housing, (2) good schools, (3) low taxes, and (4) easy access to stores, jobs, and the Interstate highways.

What part of Greenville County best meets all those requirements? We who already live here in Mauldin all know the answer: the Mauldin area. Greenville County is acknowledged nationwide as one of the best places in the whole country to live, and the Mauldin area is the best in the County.

People who own land in the Mauldin area have been waiting for the boom times for years, knowing it was coming, and now it is a seller’s market. People need homes, and developers are coming to Mauldin to build those new housing communities.

It is in the interest of the residents of Mauldin for the City to annex in those pieces of land being developed, so the City can zone them to protect the well-being of its existing residents, and to assure the new houses will fit in with existing homes; that the new homeowners which are attracted to Mauldin will fit in with the people already living in Mauldin.

But annexed or not, the new developments are going to be built. It sometimes seems like each resident wants to be the last one allowed to build a home in the Mauldin area. But nothing is unchanging; things either grow, or stagnate and wither away. Growth is necessary to Mauldin; i.e., to the well-being of its residents. Annexation is the best path to managing that growth.

Growth brings stores, services, jobs, and more. It just has to be managed. Part of that management is the choices available to Mauldin about the increased traffic.

What can be done about Mauldin’s traffic?

Obviously, we cannot simply prevent non-residents from using Mauldin roads. Besides, most of the people on our roads are Mauldin residents. We need another answer.

What does South Carolina’s Department of Transportation want to do?
SC-DOT’s answers tend to be some version of widening the roads until they are big enough to handle all the traffic. For example, they have mentioned widening East Butler from Main Street to Mauldin High School to five lanes. This solution completely disregards the number of homes that will be destroyed, and the number of businesses that will be forced to close – that is, businesses that provide jobs and services to Mauldin residents. Most of the businesses on East Butler are owned by Mauldin residents, meaning further hardships for those residents, and hurting Mauldin economically.
Widening East Butler also continues the historic view of Mauldin: just a bunch of highways you use to get somewhere else. Forget shopping, forget living, forget families. Mauldin is just a crossroads.

Instead of making Mauldin better, Widening East Butler will hurt Mauldin. If Mauldin is a great place to build a family, and we want to make it an even better place to raise a family, creating another big traffic corridor will be counter-productive.

Are there better alternatives? What are they?

As we discussed last month, East Butler Road between Main Street and the railroad tracks will be one of the boundaries of the City Center. The buildings in City Center will be “multiuse”; that is, stores on the street level, with offices and/or apartments or condos on the upper floors – similar to what you see on the City of Greenville’s Main Street.

The multi-use format creates a hub with terrific economic development – an attractive grouping of services, shopping, and living spaces that will foster economic growth for Mauldin residents. It is what makes the City Center important, if not critical, to Mauldin’s future well-being, no matter where in Mauldin you live.

Would-be developers are already studying the possibility of constructing multi-use buildings nearby the City Center, particularly on East Butler.
But those multi-use buildings require easy access for pedestrians across the street. Big, wide streets like that which SC-DOT envisions are not safe for pedestrians. Think about it: have you ever seen a pedestrian cross Mauldin’s Main Street? If so, did they look like they felt safe in doing so? Would you?

If you visit Greenville’s Main Street on a Friday or Saturday night, you see people crossing the street all the time, at stoplights or even jay-walking. Jay-walking may be illegal, but it is safe, and people casually do it. The same is true on Simpsonville’s Main Street and Fountain Inn’s Main Street. That is what needs to be true about East Butler Road, if Mauldin (like Greenville, Simpsonville, and Fountain Inn) is to better serve the well-being of its residents.

The alternative to DOT’s plan is to divert traffic away from East Butler. That can be accomplished with two primary actions.

  1. Change the signage on I-385. Encourage people to use Highway 417 to reach downtown Mauldin. Simpsonville has done that: the I-385 exits at Georgia Road and Fairview Road provide access to their areas of Simpsonville, even though Highway 417 (Simpsonville’s Main Street) is actually shorter.

    For example: add signs for I-385 traffic, to be displayed prior to the Mauldin exits and directing them to use Highway 417:  Along with the new sign, change the signs on I-385 for Exit 31 to include the words “Mauldin downtown”, as well as “Simpsonville”, as they do now.

    Highway 417 is already five lanes wide. It has few traffic lights, making it a quick way to get to downtown Mauldin. Using highway 417 lets you avoid the endless rush-hour waits on East Butler Road. The new signs would help to remind you of that alternative, and for people unfamiliar with Mauldin, direct them away from East Butler Road.
  2. Change the Corn Road / Miller Road corridor, making it an attractive alternative to East Butler. Widen Corn Road and the western part of Miller Road to three lanes, and move the western end of Miller Road to reach north Main Street up near Kellet’s Korner. Add signage encouraging the use of Miller Road and Corn Road as a bypass, to reach I-385 and east Mauldin without going through downtown Mauldin.

    As part of this change, at the intersection of Corn and Miller, make the Corn – west Miller route the “through” route; with a 90-degree turn onto east Miller, for the Forrester Woods area. That encourages traffic to use Corn Road to get to I-385, rather going than through Forrester Woods. That change preserves the eastern part of Miller Road’s residential flavor, a desire often expressed by its residents.

    These are relatively easy, inexpensive first steps towards alleviating Mauldin’s traffic congestion. But there is more to come. The City Center and features of some of the new housing developments will be a part of the solution.

    Stay tuned for articles over the next few months which will focus on this and related issues:
  3. Won’t the City Center make Mauldin’s traffic congestion worse?
  4. Where will the Swamp Rabbit Trail go through Mauldin? What does it have to do with traffic?
  5. How is Mauldin expected to change once the City Center is completed?
  6. Why all the townhomes and condos? Why don’t they build houses like mine – ranches, split-levels, and two-stories, on quarter-acre lots?♣

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