The lone business loop in South Carolina is an eight mile long freeway running between I-85 and the city of Spartanburg. The limited access road serves the Spartanburg County communities of Fairforest, Johnson City, Lone Oak and the University of South Carolina Upstate.
Interstate 85 through the Spartanburg area was constructed in the 1950s as a bypass route for U.S. 29. Traffic growth along the substandard freeway through the 1970s and 80s overwhelmed the route, resulting in plans to either widen it or replace it with a new alignment to the north. Ultimately a new route for I-85 was chosen in 1986 as it would minimally disrupt existing traffic patterns and not involve costly upgrades to the old route.
Work broke ground in 1988 on the new six lane alignment, with completion in early October 1995. As approved by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on April 2, 1995, when the new route opened, old I-85 was redesignated as Business Loop I-85.
Traffic counts dropped significantly along the former route, leading to a decline in revenue at several area hotels. Mike Whitt, a representative of the Spartanburg Hospitality Association (SHA), gave a presentation to the Spartanburg Area Transportation Study (SPATS) committee on March 31, 2000 asking for support in an effort to redesignate Business Loop I-85 as Interstate 685. The philosophy was that an Interstate designation would bring back some of the travelers now bypassing the area on I-85. The committee responded with concerns that the existing freeway would not meet interstate standards and that upgrades needed were too costly.1
A follow up by Mike Whitt on December 14, 2000 revealed that the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) required $150 million in construction to modernize the business loop freeway. Additionally, the community was generally apathetic and non-supportive about the issue. SCDOT offered instead to place overlays displaying “Freeway Loop” on guide signs for Exits 69 and 77 on I-85.
Subsequent attempts by the SHA were planned in 2001 and 2002 to convince area residents that the Spartanburg was losing out on opportunities to bring in added revenue from motorists bypassing along Interstate 85.