You may have seen signs from the South Carolina Department of Transportation peppering the landscape along East Butler Road and advertising virtual and in-person public input sessions about an upcoming project to widen the road.
Someone recently reached out to me and said, “It would not be so necessary if the city wasn’t putting in apartments and subdivisions when there is no infrastructure to support it. It’s more about city tax gains than city improvement.”
To be clear, “the city” isn’t building apartments and subdivisions. Private developers recognize that people have a real desire to be in Mauldin, so they’re working to meet that market need on private property. Still, this person does make a valid point. If people weren’t moving here, if housing wasn’t being constructed to put roofs over the heads of these new residents, if businesses weren’t locating here, if people weren’t driving through Mauldin to go to work, East Butler’s design could handle the traffic it has.
The issue is that according to the Greenville County Comprehensive Plan, “By 2040, Greenville County will add an additional 222,000 residents and 108,000 jobs.” As the seventh fastest-growing city in the state and the third largest city in the county, Mauldin must prepare for that growth.
East Butler is in miserable condition and cannot sustain current growth patterns. We got a glimpse of those patterns during the construction of the I-85/I-385 Gateway Project. Motorists used Mauldin as a detour around the project for their daily commutes, added to the city’s existing congestion, and bogged down our major throughways.
That was a look in our vehicular future. We can prepare, or we can do nothing.
GPATS stands for Greenville-Pickens Area Transportation Study, and it is the organization in charge of creating long-range transportation planning for this
area and using federal guidelines for those plans. In 2014, GPATS gave the City of Mauldin funding to conduct a corridor study of East Butler in an effort to find alternatives to SCDOT’s recommended expansion to five lanes.
The study was presented to city council’s Economic Planning and Development committee in February 2016. Along with some intersection improvements, “The study recommends three different roadway designs: a short four-lane section of roadway is recommended from City Hall to Murray Drive to provide additional left-turn lane storage capacity between Murray Drive and Owens lane; a three-lane section with bike lanes is recommended from Murray Drive to Bethel Drive; and a three-lane section with a shared-use path and no bike lanes is recommended from Bethel Drive to near Corn Road.”
By a vote of 7-0 in its February 16, 2016 meeting, Mauldin City Council approved moving forward with an East Butler corridor project using the GPATS study recommendations as a blueprint.
This blueprint would have expanded capacity on East Butler, eased congestion, created a multi-use path from the future City Center down East Butler, and minimized property disruption.
Fast forward to late 2020. The newly proposed DOT plan for the area throws out much of the work that was done by Toole Design Group and Sprague & Sprague Consulting Engineers and has a much larger impact on people’s property – especially in the Fargo Street/Bethel area.
Mayor Merritt and council members like me have met with members of county council, the state legislative delegation, and senior staff members with some of our federal delegation.
An affected resident on Fargo asked me last week, “What can we do?” I told him what I tell people so often, “Get involved, and make your voice heard.”
If you want to contact your federal or state House or Senate member and don’t know who it is or how to make contact, go to: scstatehouse.gov/legislatorssearch.php to find out. Just type your address in the form, and you get contact information for your federal and state elected officials.
Also, visit buildingabetterbutler.com. Review all of the maps, plans, alternative proposals, and contact the SCDOT officials on that website with your thoughts. They’re hearing from council. Make sure they hear from you, too.
If you can’t participate in the in-person meeting, take part in the virtual public input session.
We can build a better Butler, but there’s a better way to do it, and you need to play a major role in it.
— Taft Matney serves in Seat 1 on Mauldin city Council. He can be reached at email@example.com.