Council agrees to review design of intersection near new school

The York County Council decided Monday to take another look at the intersection of Porter and Firetower roads in response to traffic concerns voiced by Rock Hill school board members.

School board members are concerned because of the expected volume of traffic at the intersection when nearby Mount Holly Elementary School opens next year.

Bob Norwood, school board chairman, told the council Monday that adding a light or moving the intersection would make it better for all drivers.

"Not here to say this is just a safety concern for our children," he said. "The flow of traffic won't be good either way. You could rotate it 90 degrees and move it a mile and a half, and it's still not going to alleviate the amount of traffic at the intersection."

Firetower and Porter roads meet about a mile off Interstate 77 and less than a mile from the triangle of Main Street, Anderson and Albright roads.

Plans to improve the intersection were part of the 2003 road-improvement project, "Pennies for Progress," with road work financed by a 1-cent sales tax increase. Instead of turning the Y-shaped intersection into a standard T-shape 300 feet east, the council decided in March to make small improvements.

"Since we last visited this issue, I've had some concerns about the welfare of those attending the new Mount Holly Elementary School," Councilman Roy Blake said Monday. Blake said he wants to re-evaluate the T-shaped intersection with slight modifications.

Construction hasn't started on the nearly $900,000 project, but it could start in the spring, Myron George, project manager for Pennies for Progress has said. George said Monday the cost difference between the original and approved plans is around $200,000.

Plans for the school were in place when the council voted 5-2 against squaring up the intersection, after listening to complaints from those affected.

On Monday, the issue again prompted a robust conversation. Councilman Curwood Chappell banged his fist emphatically as he spoke about keeping the intersection as planned and stretching the Pennies for Progress money.

"It's as perfect as you can get. Down the road won't make a difference," Chappell said.

Councilman Joe Cox, who was in the majority in March, asked Norwood if the school board would help pay for changes. Norwood said the board hasn't discussed that.

"Elementary school children won't be driving on this road. School buses will be driven by professional drivers," Cox said. "We've already dealt with this one time."

Council member Rick Lee, who voted for the T-intersection in March with council Chairman Buddy Motz, asked his colleagues to leave the design to the professionals.

The intersection, already carrying traffic from four other nearby schools, saw almost 800 cars and trucks during peak evening hour in 2005. Capital Management & Engineering estimated that number would jump to 1,356 vehicles during peak times in 2025.

The council will look at issues including traffic flow, costs to change the acquired right of way and the impact on landowners and report back at the next meeting.

"I don't mind taking a look," said Councilman Tom Smith. "We affect people's property. It's tough to make those decisions. When you give someone money and take it back, we're not being consistent."

Engineers predict the volume of traffic at this York County intersection just outside Rock Hill's southeastern boundary is to increase when Mount Holly Elementary School opens next year.