During morning and evening rush hours, the commute along Anderson’s northside is slow-moving and congested.
Highways 81, 153, and 29 among others all experience the cluttering of vehicles from population growth throughout the Upstate area.
Roundabouts, more public transit options, and road diets are all among the efforts Anderson County is working through now to improve commute times for residents in the midst of a housing boom.
The county is projected to become much more congested by 2026, as nearly 221,000 people are expected to populate Anderson, according to the County Economic Development Office. In 2021, Anderson County’s population stood at 209,968.
The five-minute drive between T.L. Hanna High School and Midway Elementary School currently sees bumper-to-bumper traffic just above a one-minute delay on the way to work and during school rush hours, and a half-minute delay on the way home.
If not addressed, these problems, like traffic, could stockpile in the future, Anderson County leaders said.
“It’s a mess in the mornings,” Mike Gay, transportation manager for Anderson County, said. “What we’re trying to do is create the ability for people to move around with choice.”
Currently, the four-way intersection at Midway and Crestview Road experiences nearly a 60-second delay in traffic movement in the mornings, which is graded at an ‘F’, according to the Civil Engineering Consulting Services, or CECS.
The CECS classified that specific cross street is as owning a force or breakdown of flow in traffic.
In the evening, the jam is classified as an unstable flow, or operating at capacity, and sees delays of 38 seconds; an ‘E’ rating by CESC standards.
If the roundabout existed today at Midway and Crestview Road, there would only be a seven-second delay in both the mornings and evening rush hour traffic, according to an Anderson Area Transportation Study.
In the next 20 years, the areas near Midway Elementary and Hanna will see decreased traffic times, due to the implementation of a roundabout.
Up the road at the three roads in conjunction with Midway and Harriet Circle, there is a stable flow of traffic in the morning, and in the afternoon it is approaching an unstable flow, both with nearly a half-minute delay.
Today, if a traffic circle existed at Midway and Harriet, the level of service would be free-flowing and have an ‘A’ rating.
“When you build a traffic circle, you’re increasing flow, efficiency, and safety,” Gay said. “We’ll see those completed within three years.”
The planning for the upcoming traffic circles began around 2015 but has recently become a priority because of the four Midway subdivisions to arrive close to the Midway and Hanna.
“A lot of times needs change,” Maurice McKenzie, planning and development director in Anderson County, said. “If an area that wasn’t planned for all of a sudden becomes a hot area, it causes you to pivot.”
Anderson road expansions depend on where, when development happens
The growth in Anderson County will soon see single-family residential projects sprout, including three subdivisions that have at least 300 or more housing units that have gone to the planning commission for approval.
In total, there have been nearly 2,000 lots have been approved to start the design process of building housing subdivisions.
Alicia Hunter, director of development standards in Anderson County, said most of the proposed development is in Council District Six.
In the past two years alone there were 2,371 permits issued to begin infrastructure design for new single and multi-family homes.
“From 2012 to May of 2022, we’ve issued about 8,528 permits,” Hunter said. “That’s a lot of permits.”
Through June of 2022, 550 permits have been approved to begin infrastructure design for future possible subdivisions.
None of these are finalized, but the possibilities for growth throughout Anderson County begin with these permit filings.
As housing development projects advance closer to the approval process, the county is beginning to prioritize what road upgrades will take priority.
Large road projects become more reactive than proactive because of the uncertainty of which areas will grow, Planning and Development Director McKenzie said.
For the area around Midway Elementary and the developments to come, it raised an immediate level of concern.
“The level of service is already poor,” Mckenzie said of the area near Midway and Crestview Road. “Imagine 500-plus houses going in out there. That’s why you try to get ahead of it as best as you can.”
The overall growth between Greenville and Charlotte is one of the major causes for the widening of I-85 from Spartanburg to the North Carolina line.
It is designated to move traffic efficiently through 2050, said Pete Poore, director of communications with the South Carolina Department of Transportation.
Public transit upgrades, road diets
In an attempt to connect the county, multi-use paths, connectors to those pathways, and transit routes are being planned as a unifier to move people around the area with ease.
“It’s efficiency, safety, and options,” Gay said. “That’s a lot of what transportation is. If you have those three things, you can move people around effectively.”
Anderson County transportation department performed a traffic study that projects additions and implementations for nearly 96,000 people.
Their study consists of planning and projecting road projects, transit upgrades, and multi-use routes.
Several road projects are approved and federally funded, which then, the Department of Transportation will start planning, designing and buying the right of way to begin construction.
In addition, larger, and less used county roads would receive a road diet, which consists of eliminating four lanes into two lanes and using the excess space for bike paths.
“You take that street from a freeway type of feel, to a boulevard type of feel,” Gay said.
Gay envisions e-bikes being a feasible form of transportation for short commutes, to-and-from work, on the weekends, especially for individuals with retail or food service jobs.
Transit upgrades are projected to expand northwest towards Centerville, and stretching southeast.
Bus services run Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. within the city.
Only half of the people who use the Anderson County GoBus have their driver’s licenses, which runs from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Gay said.
The largest current project is the trail extension that links the AnMed Health Campus to the Anderson Civic Center, which was also purchased with federal funds.
Gay hopes to see more path connectors added to the trail extension for bike and walking access that perimeters the city of Anderson.
“The idea is to create a utilitarian network that can move and give people mobility options that they don’t have,” Gay said.
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A.J. Jackson is a general assignment reporter for the Independent Mail. Contact him by email at email@example.com with story ideas and leads, also follow him on Twitter @AJhappened