Interstate 185 South Carolina

History
North End
South End

Overview

Originally, Interstate 185 was commissioned as a short spur extending north from I-85 to Mills Avenue (U.S. 29) at Dunean, just outside the Greenville city limits. The route was eventually extended south and east along the Southern Connector through south Greenville County and Mauldin.

The Southern Connector includes two main line toll plazas and four interchanges. The plazas accommodate four overall lanes in each direction direction, including one Palmetto Pass lane, one exact change lane and two cash lanes. The interchanges are as follows:1

  • Exit 1 – Interstate 385
  • Toll Plaza
  • Exit 4 – Fork Shoals Road
  • Exit 7 AB – U.S. 25 / Augusta Rd
  • Toll Plaza
  • Exit 10 – S.C. 20 / Piedmont Hwy
  • Exit 12 – S.C. 153
  • Exit 14 – Interstate 85
  • Exit 15 – northbound only – U.S. 25 / White Horse Road
  • Exit 16 – S.C. 20 TO U.S. 25 – Piedmont

Route Information

  • North End – Greenville, SC

  • South End – Mauldin, SC

  • Mileage – 17.70

  • Cities – Greenville

  • JunctionsI-385 I-85

Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List

Greenville, SC - 1966 Map
Greenville Inset – 1966

The Greenville freeway spur opened initially as the new alignment of U.S. 29, with the old route redesignated as S.C. 20. U.S. 29 historically also combined with U.S. 25 along Augusta Road to Main Street.

Interstate 185 encircles southern areas of the Greenville area between Mauldin and Lakeside along the tolled Southern Connector. The original freeway spur provides access to Downtown Greenville from the southwest.

History

Church Street was extended southward to Interstate 185 during the 1950s when the freeway spur was constructed.2 Per the 1957 USGS Topo map of Greenville, the freeway was constructed initially as a new alignment of U.S. 29, with U.S. 29 Bypass routed along what would later become Interstate 85. The wye interchange at the south end of I-85 was expanded by February 1999 to include full access between the two freeways.

A beltway for the Greenville area was envisioned by Greenville County planners in 1967.3,6 Designated the Southern Connector, the route gained traction when a state circuit judge ruled against local opposition on the project in February 1997.3 The state Supreme Court then upheld that ruling in early August 1997, allowing property acquisition of 152 parcels of land, including 33 homes and six businesses.4 Coinciding with the Southern Connector work was the issuance of $17.5-million in general obligation state highway bonds for the extension of S.C. 153 from I-85 east to the new toll road. This occurred in February 1998.5

Construction on the Southern Connector finally broke ground during a ceremony held on February 27, 1998. Estimated to cost $240 million at that time, the 16-mile road was touted to open 4,000 acres for business development with an opening date of November 2001.6 Construction on the toll road progressed ahead of schedule with 63% of the project complete by March 2000. This resulted in a nine month forward shift of the completion date.7

The AASHTO Route Numbering subcommittee approved the extension of Interstate 185 from I-85 southeast to I-385 at Mauldin on December 9, 2000. I-185 was initially designated as a future route until the Federal Highway Administration gave approval.

Completion of the route took place on February 27, 2001, with the entire Southern Connector opened to traffic. Tolls commenced operations on March 12, 2001 with $1.50 charged for passenger vehicles traveling the entire length of the route. While owned by the state, the toll road was privately financed through the bond market and was operated by the Connector 2000 Association, Inc.8 Exits numbers along the original I-185 spur to Greenville were renumbered from 1 and 2 to 15 and 16 respectively.

Toll revenue was lower than expected during the first five years of operation, leading to funding shortages for debt repayment. Rates along the Southern Connector initially increased by 50 cents in 2005 to make the debt payments without dipping into reserve funds.9 A subsequent increase took place in 2009 ($2.50 cash rate), but eventually the nonprofit group, the Connector 2000 Association, Inc. filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy citing traffic counts far below those forecast.10

A third rate hike went into effect on January 3, 2012, when tolls were increased to $3.00 for travel along the entire length of the Southern Connector. An additional toll increase was set at that time for 2016.11

North End US 29 – Greenville, South Carolina

I-185 US 29 North at Mills Ave

I-185/US 29 north at Mills Av - Greenville, SC

A freeway ends regulatory sign precedes the West Faris Road underpass along I-185/U.S. 29 northbound. The final entrance ramp adds traffic from adjacent S.C. 20 (Grove Road). Photo by Carter Buchanan (01/13/16).

I-185/US 29 north at Mills Av - Greenville, SC

Milepost 16 appears as Interstate 185 transitions onto Mills Avenue, a four-lane urban boulevard, at Henrydale Avenue. U.S. 29 proceeds 2.6 miles north along Mills Avenue and Church Street to North Street in Downtown Greenville. Photo by Carter Buchanan (01/13/16).

US 29 South at I-185

US 29 south at I-185 - Greenville, SC

Mills Avenue (U.S. 29) transitions into Interstate 185 adjacent to a shopping center south of Henrydale Avenue. The first reassurance marker for I-185 appears as the freeway leads southwest to Exit 16 (S.C. 20) and Exit 15 (U.S. 25). Photo by Carter Buchanan (01/14/16).

South End I-385 – Greenville, South Carolina

I-185 South at I-385

I-185 north at I-385 - Mauldin, SC

Leaving the second main line toll plaza, Interstate 185 progresses eastward toward Exit 1B with I-385. This stretch remains somewhat rural with some suburban development nearby. Photo by Carter Buchanan (01/13/16).

I-185 north at I-385 - Mauldin, SC

Forthcoming Interstate 385 replaced U.S. 276 along the freeway leading southeast from Mauldin to Simpsonville, Fountain Inn and Clinton. I-385 ends to the north at Downtown Greenville. Photo by Carter Buchanan (01/13/16).

I-185 north at I-385 - Mauldin, SC

Construction of the interchange between I-185, I-385 and U.S. 276 resulted in the relocation of Neely Ferry Road. The road circumvents the exchange to the west, while providing local connections from U.S. 276 and to E Standing Springs Road. Exit 1B quickly follows Exit 1A for I-385 south toward Columbia. Photo by Carter Buchanan (01/13/16).

I-185 north at I-385 - Mauldin, SC

Exit 1B departs from below the Neely Ferry Road overpass for I-385 south to Simpsonville. The Southern Connector extends east another 1.8 miles to ramps with S.C. 417 and I-385 north. Photo by Carter Buchanan (01/13/16).

I-185 north at I-385 - Mauldin, SC

An end sign for I-185 follows the loop ramp for S.C. 417 into Mauldin. Interstate 385 runs another six miles to I-85 and 12 miles north to Downtown Greenville. Photo by Chris Patriarca (04/06/03).

I-385 North at I-185

I-385 north at I-185/US 276 - Mauldin, SC

Advancing north from the city of Simpsonville, Interstate 385 approaches Mauldin and the split with U.S. 276 at Exit 30. U.S. 276 begins a two-state route to Cove Creek, North Carolina from I-385 while providing part of the movement to the Southern Connector (I-185) leading west. 12/31/13

I-385 north at I-185/US 276 - Mauldin, SC

An auxiliary lane accompanies I-385 north to the U.S. 276 expressway spur into Mauldin. Beginning just to the east, I-185 runs along side Interstate 385 to U.S. 276. 12/31/13

I-385 north at I-185/US 276 - Mauldin, SC

Two lanes branch away from Interstate 385 north for U.S. 276 north to Main Street in Mauldin and I-185 north along the Southern Connector toward Anderson. 12/31/13

I-385 South End Throwback

I-185 South at I-385

I-185 south at I-385 - 2003

This set of signs posted at Exit 1A for Neely Ferry Road was replaced after 2012. Photo by Chris Patriarca (04/06/03).

I-185 south at I-385 - 2003

The pull through panel for the Interstate 185 mainline leading to I-385 north was replaced by 2008 to include Spartanburg. Photo by Chris Patriarca (04/06/03).

I-385 South at I-185

I-385 south at I-185- 2003

Interstate 385 encircles the east side of Mauldin on the one mile approach to I-185 at Exit 31. Photo by Chris Patriarca (04/06/03).

I-385 south at I-185- 2003

Turning to the southwest, I-385 splits with I-185 in one half mile at a wye interchange (Exit 31). Photo by Chris Patriarca (04/06/03).

I-385 south at I-185- 2003

I-185 initially parallels I-385 west from Exit 31 to U.S. 276. The adjacent route provides access to S.C. 417 (Main Street). Interstate 385 continues southward toward Columbia via I-26 in 90 miles. Photo by Chris Patriarca (04/06/03).

Historic Southern Terminus – I-85 southwest of Greenville, South Carolina

I-85 south at I-185/US 29 - 1999

The wye interchange between I-85 and I-185/U.S. 29 was initially expanded to include full access between the two freeways. Provisions were built into the previous design for the eventual Southern Connector. 12/08/99

Sources:

  1. Buchanan, Carter. “Southern Connector (I-185) officially opened.” Online posting, misc.transport.road, February 27, 2002.
  2. The History of Greenville, city of Greenville web site.
  3. “Planned Projects.” State, The (Columbia, SC), April 20, 1997.
  4. “Upstate Toll Road To Take Its Toll.” State, The (Columbia, SC), August 11, 1997.
  5. “State approves $17.5 million for connector.” Anderson Independent-Mail (SC), February 11, 1998.
  6. “Connector construction revs up.” Anderson Independent-Mail (SC), February 28, 1998.
  7. “S.C. Highway To Open Early, On Budget.” State, The (Columbia, SC), March 19, 2000.
  8. “Greenville connector sees brisk traffic.” Anderson Independent-Mail (SC), February 28, 2001.
  9. “Drivers decrease on toll road.” Gaffney Ledger, The (SC), January 13, 2006.
  10. “SC toll road operator files for bankruptcy.” Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, SC), June 24, 2010.
  11. “Tolls rise on Southern Connector near Greenville.” Associated Press State Wire: South Carolina (SC), January 3, 2012.

Page updated May 21, 2020.