HendersonvilleNews Stories

Upward Road widening done; access from median improved

The 2.8-mile project enhances the Upward Road gateway to Spartanburg Highway and into Hendersonville, East Flat Rock and Flat Rock; and to the other side of I-26 toward Howard Gap Road. The bridge over the interstate was widened from three to five lanes, including turn lanes to enter the highway.

Expenses went more than $1 million over budget to over $25 million, due largely to about $700,000 more needed in asphalt, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The delay was nearly a full year, from the original completion target of last August to this month. Engineers said delay was largely due to excessive rainfall, and water and sewer line complications. Blythe Development Co. of Charlotte was the contractor. Work began April 4, 2010. Budget restraints and design debate pushed that back, a decade after the state’s advance step of forcibly buying rights-of-way land.

Now that there are two lanes heading in each direction instead of one, motorists can change lanes to avoid traffic standstills. This happens heading from I-26 westward to nearby East Henderson High School for school or for athletic events such as upcoming Friday night football.

April Hanson has seen much traffic on Upward in the last half-decade as she has finished studies at East High, then worked at two stores by the Upward Corridor. She jested having a second lane helps to pass “Floridians” and other ultra-slow drivers.

The median has sparked concerns, in restricting where turns can be made. Several East High families are frustrated the state eliminated a main left turn onto Upward from Old Upward Road (which the school’s main entrance goes into), to go east to I-26 or beyond. The remaining option is to take Fairground Avenue past Old Upward a block north to to turn left at the next light onto Upward.

Two sets of turnaround lanes are toward ends of the Upward Corridor from I-26 to the Spartanburg Highway (U.S. 176) toward Ingles. One set is at South Allen Road, by the multi-shop plaza, near Blue Ridge Community College. Hilltop Auto Repair is across Upward. The corresponding turnaround, for westbound traffic to go east, goes by Village Florist toward Allen Road.

The turnaround pair closer to Ingles goes by Signature Signs and Graphics and adjacent Collision Automotive Refinishing Service (CARS) heading south, to turn back north and go by Rex’s Guns and Ammo. Rex is on the road’s east side. Further north, Old Spartanburg Road (which turns into Crest Road), has the turnaround for northbound traffic to go back south toward the Glovers’ shops.

Tracy Glover has operated the sign shop, at 76 Upward Road for 10 years. His brother Scott owns CARS, in a quarter-century old structure their father Kenneth built. He owns the land for both businesses.

That tract fronted Upward’s original two lanes, which are now the northbound lanes. Two southbound lanes went onto the west side, into Glover property forcing removal of their septic system. They have to pay for City of Hendersonville water and sewer service.

The Glovers felt dismayed the state claimed land for two lanes, and a third lane for the turnaround. It is full-width by the sign shop, about a half-lane by the auto shop as it gradually forms. That turnaround leads traffic away from their business.

Most sign shop frontage is gone. Customers can no longer drive up to the main door, for vehicle signage application. New parking went on the south side toward Case Street, on a steep grade.

Business owners along Upward Road in the widening zone strongly preferred extended turn lanes along Upward Road, so motorists could go directly to a business. “Heck, nearly everything is blocked off,” Kenneth Glover said. “There should be a turn lane.”

Now that traffic is funneled more, it is a double-edged sword. Those flowing by a business in the outer lane can better check out stores they drive by, than when there was one lane and they had to watch for motorists slowing and turning at various spots.

But they may drive by when traffic goes smoother and faster, and especially if they are on the other side of the median and have to go a ways to turn around.

A five-lane road was nixed. State engineering technician Roger Hamilton has told The Tribune road widening designs as a rule have avoided left-turn lanes for over a half-decade. It is deemed more dangerous with people turning at various points. Further, he said, without a median motorists too often illegally try to pass in a left-turn lane, and can smash head-on into a legal left-turner coming the other way.

A turnaround lane’s hazards include a turner slowing in front of others suddenly, while not using a turn signal. To increase visibility and safety, the turnaround lane is longer and has giant white arrows.

The Glovers and others see a lower proportion of drivers turn around during rush hours, when a line forms and there is a longer wait.

They greatly appreciate that the turnarounds give motorists better access to their businesses, than during road work. “They started work at our end and on our side first, but finished it last,” Tracy Glover said. “But, it’s done.” His brother Scott said “I’m glad it’s finally finished.”

Signature Signs’ business flourished despite slowed and detoured traffic in the last four years, and with reduced parking, Tracy Glover said. Customers do not have to stop there, and can shop online and by phone and get signs delivered.

One of the busiest businesses on the four lane is across Upward, at another unique place in Rex’s Guns and Ammo and Rex’s Indoor (Shooting) Range. A wide apron helps 18-wheel trucks turning to go by Rex’s, north toward I-26.

Heading south, there is a left turn onto U.S. 176 and now two right turn lanes. During construction, it was confusing as lanes crossing 176 in either direction kept changing as one side then the other was worked on.

Upward becomes Highland Lake Road, once it passes 176 and goes between Ingles and CVS. A brief stretch was also widened, toward the rail tracks.

Traffic flow along Upward seems smoother than before the work started, several said. A road widening can draw more traffic by being a faster-traveling road, but at least offsets that by spreading it out on twice as many lanes.

Traffic has heightened in recent years with addition of several motels and shops around I-26’s Upward interchange.

The Upward Corridor likely gets busier within a half-decade, if a three-story hotel materializes as planned. The 6.54-acre site is southwest of and alongside I-26’s eastbound exit ramp (toward Hendersonville) and Upward Road. Upward Road Development Group LLC‘s project includes a 51,000-square-foot hotel, Bojangles and another restaurant, a bank and shops. The developer just got deadlines to use a city special-use permit extended to May 3, 2015 to start the project, and May of 2017 to finish it.

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