As major road projects continue and the county moves toward selecting new ones, some motorists express concern for deteriorating streets and traffic, while others are looking forward to safer passage.
This week, the commission that selects projects for "Pennies for Progress," the county's sales-tax road-building program, reviewed public comments collected from the county website and from a series of community meetings.
"A majority of the comments had to do with maintenance," followed by concerns over safety and traffic, said Phil Leazer, Pennies program manager.
Many people are concerned about road maintenance on neighborhood roads that aren't part of the Pennies program, he said.
"Unfortunately for us," he said, "the Pennies program is not intended to be or capable of being a maintenance program."
Pennies has been a major source of road-improvement dollars in York County since voters first adopted it in 1997 and voted to continue it in 2003. Pennies funding has allowed the county to take on nearly 40 road projects totaling more than $200 million in improvements.
But road upkeep isn't the focus of the program. Improving the safety of roads and intersections, adding sidewalks and accommodating bicycles, widening roads to improve traffic, and repairing bridges are.
With more than 60 percent of state's roads, totaling about 42,000 miles, being maintained by the S.C. Department of Transportation, much of the responsibility of road upkeep falls to the state.
But DOT is funded at the same level it was more than two decades ago, limiting what it can accomplish, according to John McCarter, a district engineering administrator for DOT.
Funding for the transportation department comes largely from highway user fees collected through taxes on gas. Those fees haven't increased in decades, but the burden on the state road system has, McCarter said.
The only way to increase funding is to increase fuel consumption or change DOT's funding structure through legislative action.
"We have not spent enough money in South Carolina to keep up with the deterioration of our highways," McCarter said.
"Somebody has got to decide how to fund (the roads)," he said. "Through an increased gas tax or through some other means."
The question, he said, is: What level of service and what quality of roads do residents want?
The Pennies commission, made up of citizens from across the county, faces the task of whittling a list of about $800 million in needed road projects down to about $100million, Leazer said. The commission is planning to finalize the list Oct. 5.
The projects will be funded through the 2011 Pennies for Progress program, which York County will vote on in a June 2011 referendum. The budget for the program has not yet been set.
Input from municipalities, county officials and residents will help the commission make the final cut, but safety and traffic concerns are guiding their efforts.
York County's rapid growth is transforming what used to be country roads into major thoroughfares. Ensuring the safety of these roads is a key citizen concern as well as a Pennies priority, Leazer said.
Possible projects include widening seven miles of Paraham Road, which provides York and Clover traffic with a cut-through to the Rock Hill area, and Sutton Springs Road from S.C. 5 to S.C. 49, which also accommodates more traffic than it was designed to handle.
Increased traffic in populated areas also poses safety risks Pennies projects might address.
For example, traffic conditions near Belleview Elementary School on Rock Hill's east side have worsened, Leazer said, leading to fatal accidents in the area.
The intersections of Main Street, Cowan Road and Anderson Road create a dangerous "flurry of merge conditions," some emptying out near the neighborhood making it difficult to exit safely, Leazer said.
"We would propose that all of that merging traffic would go away" and replace it with a traditional intersection with signals, he said.
Making room for cyclists
Despite increased traffic across the county, some users soon will feel welcome on the roads in a way they haven't before.
Cyclists in York County have played a key role in helping plan Pennies projects to make room for bikes.
On maps placed around the county - in bike shops and other locations - bike riders indicated their cycling routes.
Now all Pennies projects are considering roads as biking routes, Leazer said. S.C. 274 and S.C. 901, both nearing completion by the end of October, are just two roads that now have wider outer lanes to accommodate cyclists.
The county will soon install "Share the Road" signs along routes across the county that will be safe for cyclists.
"Originally, we asked for bike lanes," said George Davis, the advocacy director for the Rock Hill Bike Club.
What they're getting are wider outside lanes - shared use lanes - where cyclists can ride and cars will have the space to pass them.
Davis said cyclists prefer to have markings on the roads, but are settling for the signs.
"It's a step in the right direction, a smaller step than we'd like to see, but we're always going to be asking for more," Davis said.