Public hearing on 153 extension set Oct. 29

Billy Cannada Staff Writer

October 18, 2013

PICKENS COUNTY – Public officials will soon be seeking input from Pickens County residents regarding plans to extend S.C. Highway 153.

South Carolina Department of Transportation officials said a public hearing on the matter is set for Oct. 29 at 5 p.m. at Easley High School.

S.C. Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens) said this is an issue that has been in the works for quite some time.

“The extension of 153 in about any direction has been talked about for the last 30 or 40 years,” Martin said. “The ideal plan would have been to extend it on around Easley or back towards Pickens in the direction of S.C. Highway 135 and S.C. Highway 183. The problem, quite frankly, is that there never was funding we could lay hands on to do what was being talked about.”

Recent planning on the project, which is sponsored by the Greenville-Pickens Area Transportation Study and the DOT, highlights a much more feasible route, Martin said.

“We were thinking, ‘if we can’t extend it in a way most people want, what can we do?’” Martin said. “The next best thing would be to find a way to bring 153 around either into Saluda Dam Road or Prince Perry Road in a way that would enhance the traffic situation in and around Easley particularly as it relates to Easley and S.C. Highway 123.”

Martin said the new shopping center, which includes a Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Academy Sports, played a big role in advancing this project.

“The new shopping center was sort of the catalyst that sort of crystalized the decision to bring it into Prince Perry Road,” Martin said. “That seemed to be a logical location. You would be able to angle it down into Saluda Dam Road without hitting any established properties.”

Martin said the current plan to extend the highway is the most practical approach when keeping in mind funds available for the project, and said it would be beyond reach to extend the road much farther than Prince Perry Road and Saluda Dam Road. The project will stem from state and federal funds, but will not cause a tax increase.

“I wish it could have been done years ago,” Martin said. “It’s just one of those things we need to move forward on. Progress is being made and the meeting on the 29 is just one of several steps in the process.”

Martin said the project will be broken up into several phases, and said phase one of the project could cost in the area of $15 million to $16 million.

“I imagine this project will run around $25 million total,” Martin said. “That’s about half of what the original extension would have cost had it gone all the way around Easley. I think we’re very fortunate that Pickens County has positioned this project within GPATS (a Greenville-Pickens planning organization).”

The Senator said, as it stands now, Pickens County is still three or four years away from the new road being built.

“When we became a part of GPATS several years ago we made this a top priority,” Martin said. “This will be significant. I think it will open up the Easley community to an even bigger and brighter future in terms of its ability to accommodate traffic.

Martin said he believes the extension will be a difference maker for Easley for years to come.

“It will certainly enhance someone who is coming from Greenville or Powdersville’s ability to get to the Easley shopping center or to get to other points in Easley,” he continued. “If there’s a traffic backup or incident on Highway 123, you could easily take this route and bypass it. It would provide an easier way from point ‘A’ to point ‘B.’”

“It’s going to be a win for everybody and a tremendous asset,” he said.