Interstate 185 (I-185) is a 17.7 mile (27 km) highway located entirely in Greenville County, South Carolina. I-185 serves as a spur route of Interstate 85 into the city of Greenville as well as a shortcut route for drivers accessing Interstate 385 from northbound I-85. A portion of this road is tolled and is known as the "Southern Connector".
I-185 was planned as part of a continuous route through Greenville on this 1955 map. Note that I-85 would have used the US 29 corridor from Greenville north towards Spartanburg.
The Southern Connector was constructed as a public-private partnership between the South Carolina Department of Transportation and Interwest Carolina Transportation Group, LLC, a development team that included a not-for-profit corporation called Connector 2000 Association, Inc. (C2A). Under this agreement, C2A operates the toll road under a fifty year license. They were responsible for financing, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining the road during this period and the toll revenue would be used to pay them for these efforts. To finance the project, C2A sold bonds that were tax-exempt under IRS Rule 63-20, which provides that the bonds sold will be exempt if they finance an activity which is "public in nature."
The highway opened in February 2001, nine months ahead of schedule. By 2007, the Connector 2000 Association was having financial difficulties because ridership on the toll road was not meeting original estimates. In the fall of 2007, the association began looking for a concessionaire to take over the operation and financial liability of the toll road. By early 2008, C2A had received a default notice from their bond trustee In January 2010, the bond trustee missed an interest payment, and the C2A was more than $8 million behind in its payments to SCDOT for the maintenance and license fees under their agreement. On June 24, 2010, the Southern Connector filed for bankruptcy. Travelers on the Southern Connector can pay using electronic toll collection facilities. South Carolina uses the Palmetto Pass, which can be used on both the Southern Connector and the Cross Island Parkway on Hilton Head Island.
The northern portion , which runs from Interstate 85 to the Greenville city limits, was opened in the 1960s and is co-signed with U.S. 29. The southern portion, which connects the I-85/I-185 interchange (exit 42) with the I-385/U.S. 276 interchange (exit 30), was opened as a toll road in 2001.. This extension was dubbed the "Southern Connector" and increased I-185 from three to seventeen miles (27 km) in length.