Relief on way for congested roads

Congestion at one of the busiest intersections in Fort Mill could be relieved sooner than expected.

Last week York County Council voted to request a grant that would speed up improvements to the Gold Hill Road/I-77 interchange. The $825,000 air quality grant would be used for planning, design and right-of-way acquisition to put work ahead of Pennies for Progress schedule. Last year county voters allocated $11.65 million for traffic congestion relief there through Pennies, the one-cent sales tax for road construction projects.

“Expediting the initial work on this project will not only relieve traffic congestion sooner, but may also reduce the overall cost of the project by completing work ahead of anticipated construction labor and material cost increases,” read the proposal from county planning staff.

County staff lists the interchange as “one of the highest priority needs for congestion relief” within the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study, an “ideal candidate” for the state Department of Transportation grant. The grant money also could relieve any “unforeseen cost overruns” and possibly allow some Pennies money set for project to be directed to other Pennies projects.

Council also agreed to apply for a grant that would improve pedestrian safety in Tega Cay. State DOT approached the county after “numerous public requests,” according to the county report. The total cost of nearly $40,000 would re-stripe a crosswalk and improve signage at Tega Cay Drive and Calloway Pines Drive, construct a five-foot wide concrete sidewalk along the shoulder to the Windsong Bay Lane intersection and build a stairway with handrail from Tega Cay Drive to an existing trail there. Total work would be confined to about 300 feet.

The $31,991 grant request would be paired with $8,000 in matching funds from C-Fund money for the county district. The county, city and state would coordinate on the project.

The grant requests are just the latest efforts to improve traffic flow in the growing reaches of northern Fort Mill and Tega Cay. The first Pennies project in 1997 included a 3.5-mile, $10 million widening of S.C. 160 from I-77 to Gold Hill Road. The 2003 round of projects included the Tega Cay/Gold Hill Connector, a .5-mile road from the Stonecrest development to Gold Hill Road costing $1.4 million. Also a .5-mile, $5 million widening to three lanes of S.C. 160 from Gold Hill Road to Zoar Road.

The connector road began design work in December, with right-of-way acquisition set for this fall and construction planned for March 2013 to December 2014. The widening from Gold Hill to Zoar was put back on the 2011 Pennies referendum.

Also included on the 2011 vote were a mile stretch of S.C. 160 W. to turn two lanes into five, at $8.84 million, and three quarters of a mile of S.C. 160 E. from Springfield Parkway to the Lancaster County line, where two lanes will become three for $4.79 million.

By John Marks, Staff Reporter with Fort Mill Times