Heavy rain and snow this winter has damaged pavement on roads throughout the area.
Fluctuating temperatures, combined with moisture, lead to cracks creating potholes. Then, scraping a snowy road can “grab” existing potholes.
“It’s the freezing and thawing,” said Eric Rekitt, assistant public works director for York County. “It’s the temperature difference. It puts pressure on the asphalt.”
Calls for pothole repair are a constant during winter, especially snowy winters. Rekitt said his group often gets calls about state-maintained roads. Repair work on those roads is the responsibility of the state Department of Transportation. County public works handles county roads, where department asphalt crews “pretty much fill them as we hear about them,” Rekitt said.
Further complicating the issue are some of the state-maintained roads with planned construction projects through a county program. Roads such as Pole Branch in Lake Wylie have improvement plans through the county-operated Pennies for Progress. Pennies roads generally are higher traffic areas, requiring the improvements. When potholes surface, people notice.
“After every rain, SCDOT comes by and fills in the potholes,” resident Camilla Price said of Pole Branch. “With each rain they get bigger and bigger. I have witnessed several almost head-on collisions with cars swerving to miss the potholes.”
York County voters in 2011 approved a Pennies campaign allocating $25.77 million for widening Pole Branch Road from Landing Point to the North Carolina state line. Columbia-based engineering group Mead & Hunt was selected, but construction contracts haven’t been awarded. Construction is scheduled to begin in winter 2015.
Rekitt said the Pennies commitment to Pole Branch doesn’t change the way his department treats potholes there.
“As is,” he said, “it’s a state road.”
In December, state Rep. Raye Felder pre-filed a bill that would allow voters to approve up to two cents more in gas tax to be used for road maintenance. Felder represents the Fort Mill area, and based the bill on Pennies for Progress, which allows funding for road construction but not maintenance. House bill 4356 sits in the Ways and Means committee and hasn’t come up for vote.
Two more legislators joined Felder on the bill. Yet Felder isn’t optimistic.
“I do not feel that this legislation will be properly vetted this year in the House and even if we did get it moved through the House it is unlikely the Senate would take action,” she said.
There’s an accompanying Senate bill, 149, sponsored by state Sen. Chauncey Gregory, who represents Fort Mill and Indian Land. That bill sits in the Senate finance committee.
Meanwhile, residents hope the temporary fixes will help avoid serious problems on their roadways.
“They are deep with lots of gravel and dangerous,” Price said. “Not to mention the uneven highway all along the South Carolina part of that road that winds making it unsafe as well. I have popped three tires in the last two years from driving on this road.”
Price said she drives Pole Branch six times a day. Others who drive it do so “excessively fast,” she said. She can see why improvements are needed on Pole Branch and hopes they will be completed soon.
“The road scares me,” Price said. “Even more so now that I have a young driver in my home.”