EASLEY - The local representative for the state highway commission says there's nothing in a recent traffic study that should keep road improvements near a future shopping center from happening.
"At this point, I still think the project will go forward," said Charles Dalton, who represents the 3rd Congressional District on the S.C. Department of Transportation Commission.
The study, commissioned by County Council and conducted by SRS Engineering, addresses current conditions on the stretch of U.S. 123 near the old Saco Lowell plant site, and predicts that some planned road improvements could impact the ability to widen the highway to six lanes in the future.
Engineers concluded that under current conditions, the stretch of highway between Greenville and Easley could be widened "in a cost-effective manner and with little or no need for right-of-way acquisitions."
With the recommended improvements, however, they say the road can't be widened without getting more right-of-way.
Dalton said the report didn't address any issues the DOT wasn't aware of already.
"There's not anything that can't be worked out through the city of Easley, the project developer and the DOT," he said.
However, Ben Trotter, who represents the Pickens area on County Council, said the improvements will only make traffic worse.
"The city of Easley did this," he said. "We tried to say no, that it would make it worse. In my opinion, it may be the worst thing the City of Easley has ever done."
Trotter said he was not against growth but feared the road improvements would cause a bigger traffic bottleneck in the area.
As a solution, the report recommends using retaining walls and fill areas constructed for development improvements to provide for the future construction of more lanes.
It also concluded that it would be easier to acquire the right-of-way now, as a way to mitigate the impacts of the proposed development project and to allow the future widening of U.S. 123.
The report also suggests a better access to the new Town Center - to extend S.C. 153 to Latham Road.
The engineers said this alternative would avoid potential impact on U.S. 123 and adjacent property owners, provide greater connectivity for the surrounding road network and divert some traffic from the already-busy highway.
Dalton said DOT funds would not be available at this time to widen the stretch of U.S. 123.
"The DOT is in a crunch and having a tremendous funding shortage across the state," he said.
The report did conclude that the proposed bridge at Prince Perry Road would provide adequate vertical clearance over the railroad tracks.
Planned roadway grading on U.S. 123, Prince Perry Road and Rock Springs Road can be done, according to the study, but retaining walls will be needed.
The report also concluded the developer could move the existing at-grade railroad crossing to 1,600 feet east of the intersection of Prince Perry and U.S. 123 but said it remains to be seen if the railroad will allow this move.
Easley City Administrator Fox Simons told The Sentinel he preferred not to comment on the study at this time.