Planners predict Pennies projects pick up in 2016

Pennies for Progress lost a little momentum to end 2015, but planners expect solid progress in the new year.

It begins with a new director in Patrick Hamilton, who starts in January. Also in 2016, the Fort Mill Southern Bypass should be complete and a new list of road projects will take shape for the next Pennies vote in 2017.

“This program is extremely important to our community,” York County Councilwoman Christi Cox told the committee set up in December to prepare for 2017. “I ask that you be objective, open-minded and people-focused in deciding what projects to pursue. First and foremost, we need to listen to the citizens in the community.”

But first, work continues on several large projects from past campaigns. Progress has been slow of late, due to weather.

“It’s slowing them down tremendously,” said Ron Pompey, assistant county engineer. “The November rains really hurt us.”

Some projects are still years from construction. Others, to open sooner, are the hardest hit by weather delays.

“When it rains like that, all you can do is wait until it’s over and go check on your erosion control,” Pompey said.

Here’s a look at where several large projects stand heading into 2016:

▪ The Fort Mill Southern Bypass should be done by May. The section from Fort Mill Parkway to Holbrook Road is done. That point to Springfield Parkway remains under construction. Those sections combine for a $47.9 million project.

“We just pushed that to May,” Pompey said. “That’s the one that was really hurt by the rain.”

It wasn’t just the amount of rain, but the timing. Plans were to finish the road in December. That’s also when paving season ends, and the plants making paving material are closed until spring. Missing December means waiting until the spring to finish.

Williams Road was closed for a time earlier in construction, but won’t be again. Hensley Road was closed, but reopened when project leaders realized they would miss their target. It will be closed again in the spring. Bank stabilization is pretty much all residents will see during the winter.

Pompey believes the bypass can be finished quickly once construction resumes.

“I know it’s been a long time coming,” he said.

▪ Right-of-way acquisition should begin in 2016 for the $25.7 million widening of S.C. 274 and Pole Branch Road. Pole Branch will go from two lanes to three. S.C. 274 will go from two to five, from S.C. 49 to Pole Branch. Right-of-way plans are being reviewed by the South Carolina Department of Transportation now. Construction should begin in 2018.

The county passed a big hurdle, Pompey said, when the state allowed for a detour once construction begins. A bridge within the project has an 11-foot elevation change. Detouring traffic from that area during construction will help.

“That could save us six months in construction,” Pompey said. “And it could save us $3 million.”

The construction company will have six months to work on the bridge. It isn’t clear how much of that time the detour will be in place.

▪ A completion date hasn’t been set for the $22.4 million U.S. 21 North project in Fort Mill approved by voters in 2011. The county is working toward its 70 percent right-of-way plans, which should be complete in 2016. The road will be widened from two lanes to five from Springfield Parkway to the North Carolina line.

▪ Pennies engineers are responding to comments on its right-of-way plan for the Gold Hill Road and I-77 interchange. Voters approved $11.6 million for the project in 2011. Right-of-way acquisition will begin once that plan is approved, followed by construction. The interchange isn’t expected to open until summer 2019.

▪ The $11.1 million Tega Cay-Gold Hill Connector began construction in the fall. The new two-lane road will go from Stonecrest to Gold Hill Road. Estimated completion is March 2017.

▪ S.C. 160 West will be widened from two lanes to five, all the way to the state line. Right-of-way acquisition should begin in 2016 for the $8.8 million project. The construction at S.C. 160 and Gold Hill Road is being done by SCDOT. Construction on the rest should come in 2017.

▪ Paraham Road stabilization and shoulder widening, at $6.52 million, should go out for construction bid this spring. Construction should be complete by fall 2017.

▪ S.C. 557 widening from S.C. 49 to Kingsburry Road likely won’t be complete until 2021. In 2003, voters approved a multi-lane widening there for $1.8 million. Under design, the project carried over to a 2011 vote for $4.3 million. The widening will take S.C. 557 from two lanes to five. Final right-of-way plans should be in this spring, with construction bids coming next year. Spring 2021 is the estimated opening time.

▪ S.C. 160 East will be widened from two lanes to three, from Springfield Parkway to the Lancaster County line. Design work is ongoing and should be complete this year. The $4.7 million project doesn’t have a construction date set. Voters approved the project at a lesser amount in 2003, then carried it over at the full amount in 2011.

▪ A bid should go out in winter 2016 for a $4.7 million intersection improvement where the Fort Mill Southern Bypass meets Spratt Street. The intersection should be complete by fall 2017.

▪ A $500,000 intersection alignment at S.C. 49 and Campbell Road should go to bid this spring, with construction complete later this fall. Utility agreements and permitting is going on now.

As construction continues, community meetings will be held throughout the county to collect input on the next round of Pennies Projects. The public must approve Pennies for every seven-year cycle, electing to charge a one-cent sales tax for road construction projects.

Jerry Helms, chairman of the residents group that will recommend roads for 2017, is ready for the task.

“I’m honored to be a part of this program,” Helms said. “We want to provide safe roads for the people of York County and this is a great way to do it.”

By John Marks, Staff Reporter with Fort Mill Times