Local officials hope to get Hwy. 29 improvements moved up on project list


By Stan Welch
Williamston Mayor Mack Durham knows the potential value of U.S. Highway 29 as a conduit for industrial and economic development in southern Anderson county. He also knows that until significant improvements are made to the highway, that potential will go largely to waste.
“The highway is considered one of the state’s most dangerous roadways. A little over a year ago, last August two pedestrians were killed just a day apart. Charlotte Gray, a thirty eight year old woman from Liberty, Texas was struck by three vehicles while walking along the highway near the intersection of Welcome Road.
The incident occurred at approximately 10:37 on a Friday evening. She was declared dead at the scene after suffering traumatic injuries. Coroner Dom McCown said that preliminary indications are that alcohol was involved, but toxicology reports are pending. No charges were filed against the motorists involved, but the investigation by SCHP is ongoing.
In an incident on Saturday at approximately 1:45 a.m. Brandon Christopher Fennell, 29, apparently attempted to evade a traffic stop. He hit an embankment and then a tree. He was declared dead several hours after being transported to AnMed Hospital.
“So it is on the radar. Add to that the three bridges we have that will only allow flatbed trucks, and there are some real challenges ahead,” Durham said. “But that road could do so much for south Anderson as well as our area that we have to keep attention on the project.”
Durham says that the current makeup of those serving on the ACOG (Appalachian Council of Governments) board offers the opportunity to do just.
Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, as well as Anderson city councilman Jeff Roberts were both recently assigned to the regional transportation committee, while Durham and state representative Anne Thayer are on the board, though they have different committee assignments. A project to address one of the low bridges at Cherokee Road is slated to begin next year. But the Big Creek Road bridge and the Highway 20 connector have not made it to the drawing board yet.
Still, the highways recent designation as an interstate adjacent roadway is a step forward, said Durham. “It has the potential to alleviate some of the traffic on I-85, especially if they made it a four lane to the state line, or at least to south of Anderson. That could also help revitalize some of the small towns in the south end of the county. But this is a long game. We just have to keep moving the ball down the field. Right now, the various municipal planning organizations (APATS, GPATS, and others) are conducting a freight survey which won’t be complete until February of 2021. “The good news is that they are all working together on the study, and hopefully that kind of cooperation will be come a habit,” Durham said.