Future rounds of Pennies for Progress are scheduled to include a widening of Springfield Parkway and, for the first time, money for road maintenance.
Traffic in the Fort Mill and Tega Cay areas was a major topic at a countywide community workshop Sept. 19 in Rock Hill. Elected officials from each municipality and school board within York County attended. Officials say the county needs to move toward collaboration in land use, road, infrastructure and other planning.
“We’re all facing the same issues, so we all need to work together to come up with common solutions,” said Susan Britt, planning and land development manager for Tega Cay.
Phil Leazer, county engineer with the Pennies for Progress program, said Fort Mill and Tega Cay are priority areas. Pennies is a 1-cent, voter-approved sales tax used for road construction. Each approval lasts seven years and voters will have an opportunity to renew the program in 2017. Planning for it begins next year, officials said.
Leazer can “almost guarantee” a widening of Springfield Parkway from Highway 160 to Deerfield Drive will be a candidate for the upcoming Pennies campaign. That project, formerly called the Fort Mill Northern Bypass, was built to its current state for $14.6 million through the 1997 Pennies vote.
The next Pennies referendum could raise $845 million. Planners regularly stated in the past that Pennies money is for new construction and can’t be used for road maintenance, an issue they say is of increasing concern. Since York became the first county to enact a Pennies tax, three counties – Aiken, Horry and Florence – have passed similar programs that include maintenance money.
“No one has challenged it,” Leazer said. “I would say we probably need to consider maintenance.”
Fort Mill and Tega Cay have concerns like the traffic caused by the 600 jobs planned for the Kingsley development and numerous new neighborhoods in construction or planning.
Tega Cay Mayor George Sheppard has a more immediate concern: the traffic on Gold Hill Road from I-77 to Highway 160. Sheppard recalled a recent trip home from work where he noticed a jogger.
“That man passed me three times, jogging, before I got to Gold Hill and 160,” Sheppard said.
The state Department of Transportation recently notified the county and Tega Cay that the project to widen the intersection is $985,000 short. Leazer plans to ask the county for that amount in October to avoid delays, with plans to reimburse it through the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study. Asking RFATS first would delay the project six months.
The interchange project is a combination of Pennies, state and federal funding. The last Pennies campaign put $11.6 million toward the widening and a design firm was selected, but a construction company hasn’t yet. The project doesn’t have an estimated completion date.
Other transportation issues discussed at the meeting were connectivity between eastern and western York County, public transit and features like bike lanes and sidewalks.
“Right now we’re focusing on how we move cars from point A to point B,” said Joe Cronin, planning director for Fort Mill. “We’re not necessarily focusing on how we move people from point A to point B.”
In Fort Mill, officials are studying the possibility of a new impact fee charged on incoming development. Part could include a transportation fee developers would pay, to be used for roads or similar projects. The town hasn’t announced rates or any other specifics.
That money could combine with county money in Pennies improvements in Fort Mill. The impact fee study from the town should be complete by the end of the year.
Cronin wondered, just as York County saw an uptick in state funding with its ability to match dollars through Pennies for road projects, if Fort Mill might get the same treatment from the county.
“Would the county give preference?” Cronin said.
Ryan Blancke, transportation manager for the county, said another option is C-Fund money. Tax revenue from the 200 million gallons of gas purchased in York County each year – second highest in the state – contributes $3.5 million to C-Funds. Each of seven county council districts gets $425,000 and 15 percent goes to economic development projects, usually new roadways.
Blancke will send a letter to municipalities and school boards this winter asking for road needs in the next funding cycle.
“With that money, we’re taking requests,” he said.