Drought speeds up hopes for truck bypass in Fort Mill

FORT MILL -- The bad news is: There's a drought; water use is restricted.

The good news is: There's a drought; with no rain in sight and weather delays unlikely, the finishing touches might be applied sooner to Fort Mill's northern bypass so the state can declare it a truck route.

That would be welcome news to Fort Mill leaders.

"My impression was the purpose for the bypass was to have trucks use it instead of going through the downtown," said John Huskins, S.C. DOT construction engineer for York County. "From what I've seen, there's a significant amount of truck traffic using that route now."

Fort Mill Mayor Charlie Powers previously had asked the DOT to create a truck route to keep heavy traffic off the town's historic Main Street. He was told to wait until the bypass was completed. Now, he and other town and county officials want to make it official.

"Right now, the trucks are going through downtown, and it makes a bad traffic problem," said York County Councilman Paul Lindemann, who represents Fort Mill. "We'd all like to see it diverted, and I'm sure the truckers would as well."

The DOT requires a written request to become official, said Stan Bland, DOT, construction engineer for this district. The agency doesn't "have any particular problem as long as the town agrees to it," he added.

York County still owns the bypass, and it probably will be the first of 2008 before construction is finalized and DOT inspections are completed. Then, the state highway commission will be asked to accept it as a state road.

DOT engineers are considering asking commissioners to approve a truck route at the same time, Bland said.

The route being considered would reroute traffic up the U.S. 21 Bypass from the Peach Stand to the northern bypass and down to S.C. 160 east of town to Lancaster County, said Greg Shaw, DOT traffic engineer for this district.

"Trucks could actually be restricted from using S.C. 160 through town, but we probably don't want to go that way yet," Bland said. "We will do it if Fort Mill agrees to enforce it."

Meanwhile, both Fort Mill and Tega Cay officials said they're glad the new northern bypass is open, Lindemann said.

"I think it's a very early success of what's to come for Fort Mill," he said.