After 13 years, Fort Mill bypass opens to traffic

The bypass is open.

Barrels and barricades came off the pavement Thursday, as Fort Mill Parkway opened from Spratt Street to Springfield Parkway. Town and county officials gathered for a ribbon cutting at its intersection with S.C. 160.

“It’s a happy day,” Mayor Guynn Savage said.

In recent months Savage and others were tempered in their enthusiasm at news of an expected opening – not because they didn’t want the bypass, but because prior planned openings had come and gone. Councilman Ronnie Helms said the bypass was a topic of discussion when he first ran for office in Fort Mill in 1999.

The final phase of the Fort Mill Parkway southern bypass has been completed and the new route opened to traffic June 30. The $27 million project took 13 years to complete.

“That was the big issue, ‘do we need a bypass?’” he said.

All that past planning came together Thursday. Town leaders and law enforcement were down to reminders of how to drive the new road. The latest stretch of bypass didn’t add any new traffic lights, meaning multiple two-way stops.

“People need to be aware, there are new traffic patterns,” Savage said.

The bypass project was years in the making. The southern bypass first phase, from Fort Mill Parkway near Spratt Street to Holbrook Road, wrapped up two years ago. Pennies for Progress voters approved the project in 2003 at an estimated cost of $7.6 million. The final tab was about $27 million.

Phase two, from Holbrook to S.C. 160, also had a $7.6 million estimate in 2003. Final costs are closer to $21 million.

The now completed southern bypass, formally named Fort Mill Parkway in 2014, connects to Springfield Parkway and the northern bypass approved by Pennies voters in 1997. That road, from S.C. 160 to Deerfield Road, cost $14.6 million. More than twice the 1997 estimate.

A few people stepped out of cars and businesses to cheer the ribbon cutting Thursday. Even more drove on the newly opened road the moment they could. Online, locals anticipated the opening since a county official confirmed Monday it would be open this week. Followers of the Fort Mill Times’ Facebook page seemed ready for a faster route to work and play.

Angela Hold said it will be easier getting her daughter to school now, along with trips to the gas station, pharmacy and Carowinds. Maelyn Riley said it will be a “much faster way” to Carowinds and to see friends.

“It will cut my morning commute by a good 15 minutes,” Elisa James claimed in a post. “It was about time.”

Many said it was past time for the bypass to open, while others worried it would attract even more residential development to the fast-growing town.

“Unfortunately populations follows roads,” Brian Firmstone posted.

By John Marks, Staff Reporter with the Fort Mill Times