S.C. 161 widening moving at solid pace

Faster commutes from York to Interstate 77 are around the corner as road crews pass the halfway point of the final phase of the S.C. 161 road widening project.

And some evidence even suggests work will be finished early, although original projections target completion for next June.

"It is going exceptionally well," said project manager Myron George. "We've had some indications that the project will be completed a few months ahead of schedule."

The $14 million Pennies for Progress project that began in June 2006 will widen S.C. 161 from the S.C. 5 Bypass in York to the Mount Gallant Road intersection near Newport. Other sections of the highway from Rock Hill to Newport were widened recently. Once completed, a minimum of five lanes will connect York to Rock Hill and Exit 82 of I-77.

"I drive between Rock Hill and York almost everyday," George said. "It's going to be great when we get finished."

Widening from S.C. 5 to Fishing Creek is nearing completion, a new bridge spanning the creek should be finished soon and new lanes near Shiloh Road are already in use, George said.

George attributes the swift progress on the five-mile project to good planning and good weather. If warm, dry conditions continue, he expects workers to stay ahead of schedule.

Barrels block business

Despite its success so far, the project has caused its fair share of headaches, too.

Zach Doulaveris, owner of York Seafood Restaurant, said his main entrance has been blocked by orange barrels and heavy equipment for months.

Crews replacing the bridge over Fishing Creek have had to re-route traffic to the restaurant, which sits near the creek's bank.

"The last couple months have been off. It's been tough," Doulaveris said, adding higher gas prices and seasonal trends also have played a role in dipping profits.

Doulaveris said the access road created so customers can access his parking lot can get jammed during busy times, adding to the frustration. But the restaurateur believes his popular eatery will benefit in the long run from being located on one of western York County's busiest thoroughfares.

"Before, the branches hung so low over the creek, a lot of times people couldn't see us. Now, it's gonna be visible for quite a ways back," he said. "Once this is all done it will be beneficial for everyone. ... I really can't complain."

Flooding, utility concerns

Residents along the S.C. 161 corridor have seen some problems, too. Peggy McSwain, who lives near the intersection of S.C. 161 and Shiloh Road said construction has interrupted her cable TV service numerous times when lines are tangled and broken during grading.

Additionally, last week's thunderstorms caused water to flood over the roadway making driving conditions hazardous.

"It's a mess." McSwain said. "If it rains after dark, I'm afraid people may get hurt."

George said the ponding water was pumped out as quickly as possible to prevent an accident. He said the concern was alleviated Thursday when traffic was routed onto new lanes adjacent the flooding. The old lanes will be repaved, curbs and gutters installed and flooding eliminated, George said.

"They're making very good progress," George said. "We're hoping they'll be finished soon."