The purpose of the project is to address the existing and future truck traffic traveling through downtown Bishopville.
Through the Long Range Transportation Planning Process for the Santee-Lynches Region, a truck route has been proposed to move truck traffic off of U.S. 15/Main Street in downtown Bishopville. Lee County and the City of Bishopville secured Congressional earmarks through various appropriations and transportation acts between 2004 and 2006 that have been identified for use for the proposed project. In addition, The Santee-Lynches River Council of Governments (SLRCOG) has programmed federal funds through the "guideshare" rural transportation planning program to support the proposed project, and the Lee County Transportation Committee (CTC) has allocated local funds for the proposed project. The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) is assisting the SLRCOG in the development of the proposed project.
Because federal funds would be involved in the proposed project, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requires the preparation of an environmental document to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA ensures that federal agencies fully evaluate alternatives and their impacts for proposed projects as well as provide opportunities for federal/state agencies as well as the public to provide input during the development of the project before a decision is made.
The Environmental Assessment (EA) was started for the project, and public outreach activities started in 2010 and occurred throughout the NEPA process. There were charrettes and community meetings, as well as a public information meeting. In addition meetings were held with other stakeholders such as community leaders and the Bishopville City Council. The EA evaluated seven build alternatives to re-route traffic from US 15/Main Street, as well as a No Build Alternative for the project. The EA was available for review in September 2012, and based on the analysis of impacts and input from the public, a Preferred Alternative was designated. A public hearing was held for the project in November 2012, and a number of individuals spoke out in opposition of the project. In addition, the Bishopville City Council did not agree with the Preferred Alternative and passed a resolution stating that it did not endorse or support the project on the proposed alignment.
Due to the considerable public response and potential for significant impacts to the community, FHWA advised SCDOT and SLRCOG that in order to complete the study process on the proposed project, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would need to be prepared. A Public Information Meeting was held in February 2015 where the public was informed of that possibility.
The SLRCOG Board of Directors has determined to complete the project study process, and SLRCOG staff are working with the SCDOT to develop the Environmental Impact Statement. As part of the EIS study, previous data will be reassessed. New traffic data will be collected including exploring current traffic patterns and truck routes to determine how many vehicles and trucks pass-through Bishopville and how many originate or have a destination in and around Bishopville. The proposed need for the project will be carefully reevaluated to clearly define the transportation problem to be solved, outline the goals and objectives, and provide data on why the project is necessary. Multiple alternatives will be identified and evaluated to present a solution that best meets the identified need. Alternatives will be assessed for their impacts on both the community and the natural environment. As required by NEPA, the No-Build or "do nothing" alternative will also be investigated to identify impacts if the project does not move forward.
A proactive public involvement process will be an integral component of the study. Input regarding the project's Purpose and Need, public outreach methods, alternatives development and identification of a preferred alternative is welcomed.