Interstate 385 is a 42 mile long route branching northwest from I-26 to the city of Greenville in the South Carolina Upstate. The freeway serves as a commuter route for the south Greenville County suburbs including Mauldin, Simpsonville and Fountain Inn, while joining the Greenville metropolitan area with Columbia via I-26. I-385 carries six or more lanes through the suburbs and city of Greenville, while southern reaches through Laurens County remain rural with four lane s.
An unsigned Business Spur for Interstate 385 extends 0.49 miles west from U.S. 276 (Laurens Road) along E North Street to S.C. 183 (Beattie Place) and U.S. 29 (Church Street) at Downtown Greenville.
The Gateway Project upgraded the systems interchange joining I-85 with Interstate 385. Originally planned from 2014 to 2017, construction was underway between January 2016 and mid 2020. Work replaced two loop ramps with high speed flyovers and added collector distributor roadways along I-385 from I-85 south to Woodruff Road. The final bridge of the $231 million project5, the exit ramp joining I-385 south with S.C. 146 (Woodruff Road), opened to traffic on December 6, 2019. A ribbon cutting ceremony preceding the opening of the bridge marked the completion of the Gateway Project. Work continuing through the second quarter of 2020 included final asphalt paving, bridge painting, and installation of signs, fencing and dynamic message signs.
Interstate 385 was one of four interstate urban connections proposed by the South Carolina State Highway Department to the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) on March 28, 1958. The method of numbering branch routes was not finalized, so South Carolina numbered the spurs from I-85 in order of sequence, with I-185 and I-285 to Greenville, and I-385 to Spartanburg. The final proposed numbering of official interstate connections in the urban areas for South Carolina was submitted to AASHO on July 16, 1958, with I-285 at Greenville changed to I-385 and I-385 at Spartanburg changed to I-585.
Interstate 385 originally consisted of just the spur from a trumpet interchange with I-85 northwest into Greenville. The freeway leading south from Mauldin to I-26 by Clinton was built in conjunction with Interstate 26 between Columbia and Spartanburg. It opened in Fall 1960 as a new alignment for U.S. 276.1
Named the Golden Strip Freeway, construction to link the original I-385 at Greenville and U.S. 276 south from Mauldin was separated in two stages. The first phase got underway in 1978 and involved grading and drainage for the route south from I-85/385 to Gilder Creek south of Bridges Road (Exit 33).2
Initially the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) planned to realign U.S. 276 onto the Golden Strip Freeway alongside I-385. An application for the relocation was approved by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on October 1, 1983 along with redesignating the former route through Greenville and Mauldin as U.S. 276 Business.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved the addition of the Golden Strip Freeway extension and U.S. 276 from Mauldin to Clinton to the Interstate System as Interstate 226 on February 13, 1984. However after study, it was determined that numbering the highway as Interstate 385 would be more suitable because of a portion of the Golden Strip Freeway was already numbered I-385. FHWA concurred with the change from I-226 to I-385 on April 5, 1984.
A separate application to AASHTO was sent for the extension of Interstate 385 and the truncation of U.S. 276 northwest to the Golden Strip Freeway at Mauldin. The AASHTO Route Numbering Committee approved the changes on May 23, 1984. The Golden Strip Freeway was completed in June 1985.23
Construction of the Southern Connector extended Interstate 185 southeast to I-385, U.S. 276 and S.C. 417 (NE Main Street) in Mauldin. The toll road opened on February 27, 2001.
Interstate 385 was reconstructed to six lanes in the Greenville area between June 2001 and Fall 2004. Work expanded the northernmost arc of the freeway from I-85 to the diamond interchange (Exit 42) with U.S. 276. Widening replaced the median with a concrete barrier and raised area for landscaping. Additionally the project included the conversion of the exchange with S.C. 291 (Pleasantburg Drive) from a full cloverleaf to a six-ramp parclo interchange to eliminate weaving traffic patterns. The overpass for S.C. 291 was one of many replaced to increase the height clearance.4
A major resurfacing project took place along the southernmost 15 miles between January and July 2010. One direction of Interstate 385 closed for a period of time so that crews could rebuild the concrete roadways.