School board concerned about intersection plans

Members of the Rock Hill school board are worried that traffic at the intersection of Firetower and Porter roads will be heavy and dangerous when Mount Holly Elementary School opens nearby next year.

So the board agreed this week to ask the York County Council to reconsider its decision not to turn the spot into a standard T-shaped intersection.

"It's not our job to site roads just like it's not their job to site schools," Superintendent Lynn Moody said during Monday's board meeting.

However, in this situation Moody said it's important for the school board to speak up.

Plans to improve the intersection were part of the 2003 "Pennies for Progress" project, paid for with a 1-cent sales tax increase.

After heated debate, the council opted to make small improvements to the Y-shaped intersection as-is, rather than moving the intersection about 300 feet east and reshaping it into a T as was originally planned.

By the time the council came to its final decision in March, plans had been made to build Mount Holly Elementary on Porter Road.

The roughly $900,000 project is in the right-of-way acquisition stage, which means construction hasn't started yet.

York County Manager Jim Baker said he's aware the school board's request might be coming.

Baker said it would be up to the members of the council how to proceed.

Council Chairman Buddy Motz, one of two people who voted for the T, said he doesn't expect the council to reconsider its choice.

"I just don't see a reason for us to take our time and talk about it again unless we had a majority of the council that requested it and would vote to go back to the original design," he said.

But council member Roy Blake, who represents the area, said giving the intersection a second look isn't out of the question.

If nothing changes, construction could start in the spring on the already-approved changes at the intersection, said Myron George, project manager for "Pennies for Progress."

According to figures presented earlier this year, 771 cars and trucks passed through Firetower and Porter during the peak evening hour in 2005.

Capital Management & Engineering, the firm in charge of "Pennies for Progress," estimated that number would jump to 1,356 vehicles during peak times in 2025.

The intersection already is affected by traffic from Belleview Elementary, Castle Heights Middle and Rock Hill High.

"The concern is that with the school, it's going to add additional traffic so your queue line to wait is going to back up," Motz said. "Any time people have to wait longer to get into a major intersection, they get impatient and take more chances."

School board Chairman Bob Norwood said it's important for the board to send the County Council the message about the intersection because he doesn't think board members will have answers when Mount Holly parents start asking about traffic there.

"It's almost poetic that lane there is yellow," he said, looking at a map showing the scheduled improvements in yellow. "That's what I see backed up forever -- school buses."

The first alternate plan called for Porter Road to be turned behind Mary's Cafe with a stoplight at the created T-intersection with Firetower Road.

The final approved plan will add width to Porter Road and create a divided traffic flow onto Firetower Road.