Push for Dave Lyle extension revived

A legislator and a local lawyer have quietly renewed a push to build a $100 million bridge from York County to Lancaster County.

A money shortage tabled the so-called Dave Lyle Boulevard extension project several years ago. The road -- originally conceived in the late 1980s -- would connect Dave Lyle near the Rock Hill Galleria with U.S. 521 in Lancaster County.

But a developer's plans could revive the project.

National developer Newland Communities last year bought about 2,000 acres in rural southeastern York County, where planners say the roads can't handle much more traffic. Newland hasn't submitted a formal design, but Newland representatives have said the development could include several thousand homes.

Newland last year hired Fort Mill attorney Bayles Mack to help and has offered $10 million toward the project. Mack used to be on the state highway commission and attends local Rock Hill-Fort Mill transportation study group meetings where he casts a proxy vote for current commissioner Bobby Jones.

"I have two hats as I see," Mack said. "I'm just a transportation nut, and I've been on the (highway) commission and saw we needed it (the extension) 10 or 15 years ago. It's been sort of a cause of mine to get it resurrected. When Newland came along and said we'd be willing to put up some money, I said I'd be glad to try and help."

The competition for road funding is intense, and bridges are expensive.

State Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, is gearing up to ask the state infrastructure bank for money, but first Hayes, Mack and others have to rally local support.

Getting support, money

Most elected officials think the Dave Lyle extension makes sense in theory -- just don't ask them to pay for it.

"If it's being put in without any cost to Lancaster County that's one thing. But if they're going to require us to give money we'd have to rethink that," said Lancaster County Council Chairman Rudy Carter. Carter said he doubted Lancaster County would spend any money for Dave Lyle.

Still, the Lancaster County Council recently passed a resolution supporting the project.

Leaders like the road because they say it would spur economic growth, alleviate traffic on Lancaster's busy S.C. 5 and be part of a congestion-easing outerbelt around Charlotte.

Years ago, officials thought the road would make it easier for Lancaster County shoppers to get to the Rock Hill Galleria. But developer Crosland LLC announced plans this week for a 142-acre shopping and medical complex in Lancaster's panhandle that could send York County shoppers in the other direction.

The road would likely also be another beach route, Hayes said. Drivers wouldn't have to go all the way down S.C. 5 near Bowater to cross the Catawba River and head east.

"This could have an impact beyond just our local traffic issues," he said.

Other players are talking about the extension, too.

Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols recently spoke with U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., about the Dave Lyle project, according to an April memo.

"With the fast pace of growth in this portion of York County and the City of Rock Hill's expectation of growth between I-77 and the Catawba River, this project becomes even more important," Echols wrote.

Future annexation?

Newland has talked to Rock Hill about possible future annexation of its development, after York County officials said it was too early for Newland's thousands of homes in such a rural area.

But York County officials may need more persuading.

"The group pushing this is Newland," said York County Council Chairman Buddy Motz. "They are wanting to have the road developed to get people to their development."

If York County gets more road money, Motz said it should be spent where the county has planned for concentrated growth: In the booming northern area.

This week's massive traffic snarl caused by a wreck on I-77 renewed talk about another Catawba River crossing. Traffic bottlenecked at the county's two alternate bridges when an overturned tractor-trailer blocked the major I-77 crossing.

"Would it be better to put a bridge to Lancaster or another bridge to Charlotte?" Motz said. "The costs would probably be about equal. ... Right now, it's not in the county's plan to do anything on the eastern side."

Leaders will meet Monday with road planners to talk about the road. Mack is petitioning the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce for support.

About $3.5 million already has been spent on environmental studies of the area where Dave Lyle could go, but those studies were done almost five years ago. In March 2008, they'll have to be revisited, and that could cost another $5 million, Mack said.

He said he'd like to have funding in place for the project before then.