Road plan gains new support

The Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. threw its support behind the 2011 “Pennies for Progress” road improvement program at its monthly meeting Tuesday.

The program is up for renewal in August, when York County voters can choose whether to approve an additional 1-cent sales tax and continue plans for $161 million in new road construction and improvements.

Since it began in 1997, Pennies has invested nearly $500 million in road improvements, with about half generated from the 1-cent sales tax and the other half from sources including the S.C. Department of Transportation and state match and federal highway program grants.

“I think it’s huge that we had that much work either done or ongoing in York County,” said Phil Leazer, Pennies project manager.

In his presentation to the RHEDC, Leazer pointed out past projects that have been successful, particularly the widening of S.C. 5.

Showing before-and-after pictures of the highway, he pointed out how previously, S.C. 5 had 4-foot drop-offs and no shoulders.

Now, he said, they can see the magnitude of what has been done.

“That’s a four-lane highway, a very safe structure,” he said. “We’ve got shoulders and guard rails and crossways.”

He highlighted new projects proposed in the 2011 Pennies program, one of which is meant to help students crossing Cherry Road near the Winthrop University campus. He mentioned installing submerged lighting in the crosswalks.

“We have some good opportunities here, and we’re excited to work with Winthrop,” Leazer said.

Another project would involve intersection improvements at White Street, West Main Street, Constitution Avenue and West Black Street.

One of the largest projects is U.S. 21, which Leazer said is a good traffic reliever for Interstate 77, and improving Celriver and Red River roads near the Waterford Business Park, another effort at relieving traffic.

Relieving traffic congestion was one of the goals Leazer mentioned in his presentation, along with economic development, air quality and safety.

South Carolina has the third deadliest roads in the nation, and York County had 70 fatalities in an 18-month period, according to figures he presented.

Leazer called this unacceptable.

“Whatever we can do to make our roads safer is incentive enough for me to continue the program,” he said.

RHEDC board members voted unanimously in favor of a resolution supporting Pennies in 2011.

All of the preface work for the proposed 2011 projects has been completed and awaits approval from county voters.

By Nicole E. Smith, staff reporter with The Herald