LAKE WYLIE -- A countywide shortfall for road funding could clog construction plans, putting Lake Wylie in quite a jam.
York County's road-building program "Pennies for Progress" is $169 million short, and the county doesn't have money to pay for more than half of the projects voters approved in 2003, county officials said during a workshop Wednesday night.
Among the "Pennies" roads without funding are S.C. 557 from Kingsbury Road to S.C. 49 and the S.C. 274/279 widening at Pole Branch Road. Also, near Tega Cay, the widening of S.C. 160 from Gold Hill Road to Zoar Road is not funded.
The Pennies program, funded by a 1-cent sales tax, has been hampered by rising construction costs and shortfalls since it was approved by voters in 1997 and again in 2003.
"Pennies" funds will cover only 12 of the 25 projects in the 2003 program. To pay for the remaining projects, officials said they'll look to several sources, including federal stimulus money, state grants and a 2010 referendum to continue the program.
Locally, the impact of Wednesday's news could be felt both in terms of traffic and safety. The S.C. 557 widening runs beside the new Oakridge Middle School set to open in the fall.
Also along that stretch of road is Mill Creek Commons, which currently has Lowe's Home Improvement open but plans for several more businesses.
The school still will open on schedule, said district finance and facilities officer Ken Love, complete with curbs and a new 90-degree intersection at S.C. 557 and Oakridge Road.
"We're expecting the county to reimburse us for those improvements," Love said. "With the shortfall that might take a little longer."
As for traffic concerns, the district is still considering options.
"We're evaluating that now," Love said, "because there is a lot of traffic on that road. We are looking at potentially having to hire crossing guards."
At Pole Branch Road, several wrecks throughout the years have residents like Tim Reid concerned about safety. In July, a woman was killed and three others were taken to a local hospital following a wreck at the Pole Branch Road/S.C. 274 intersection.
In 2007 Myron George, president of Capital Management & Engineering, said the $8.55 million improvement to a 2.4-mile stretch there would improve an intersection that is "less than ideal." He also noted the project's importance if the Garden Parkway -- a toll road project still being routed in Gaston County -- were constructed, making Pole Branch a throughway to Lake Wylie.
"York County is one of the richest counties in South Carolina. When you look around and see what some of these other counties are doing with getting their roads done, this county ought to be sitting on top," said Reid, who plans to open his produce stand, South Forty Farms that opened last year, on S.C. 274 just after Pole Branch Road within a couple of weeks.
The only nearby project to make the funded list is improvements to S.C. 274. In Tega Cay, construction of the Tega Cay/Gold Hill Road connector also made the list.
The original budget for the 2003 "Pennies" was $173 million. But county manager Jim Baker said Thursday that figure was "unrealistic."
Estimates for the 2003 program didn't properly anticipate rising construction costs for "Pennies" projects, Baker said.
"We recognize that these estimates -- in 20/20 hindsight -- they were abysmal," he said. "We can't say much else."
The S.C. 274 widening project, part of the 1997 Pennie for Progress campaign, is presently under construction that should last into 2010. The portion from S.C. 161 to Wedgefield Road is complete, while the northern section remains ongoing. The 7.3-mile project came in at an estimated $31.5 million.
The Herald contributed to this story.