Major roads to feel pinch of 'Pennies'

Cars make their way down Mount Gallant Road north of Celanese Road on Wednesday morning. The section of Mount Gallant from Celanese Road to Twin Lakes Road is slated to be widened under the "Pennies for Progress" program.
Cars make their way down Mount Gallant Road north of Celanese Road on Wednesday morning. The section of Mount Gallant from Celanese Road to Twin Lakes Road is slated to be widened under the "Pennies for Progress" program.

Faced with money shortfalls in the "Pennies for Progress" program, York County staff and engineers are beginning to scale back several road projects and may delay two others.

County officials and engineers are meeting to discuss the design of some 2003 Pennies for Progress programs, including major thoroughfares such as Mount Gallant Road, Ebinport Road, S.C. 49 and Nimitz loop and McConnells Highway. No final decisions have been made, and most of the designs still need to be approved by the county council.

"We fully plan to provide everything promised in the referendum," County Engineer Mark Kettlewell said. "But we may implement value engineering; looking at cost-effective ways to get those things completed, like putting traffic lights on wires instead of mast armed poles. We can't afford the upgraded version."

While the number of lanes to be added will be preserved, changes also could include using ditches instead of curbs and gutters and cutting out extras like bike paths, officials said.

The $22.8 million shortfall was discovered in December in Pennies for Progress, a voter-approved program that uses an addtional 1-cent sales tax to raise money for road improvements. County administrators plan to use interest from 2003 revenues to finish 1997 projects. However, they also anticipate that a third vote may be required to finish all of the 2003 projects.

Projects being reviewed in the next few months are:

• S.C. Highways 49/211/ 97/Nimitz roads loop: Plans to widen shoulder and overlay for 20 miles of these roads from S.C. 321 south in York to S.C. 5 at Nimitz Road; $22.4 million

• Ebinport Road from Cherry to India Hook roads: Three-lane widening for the 2-mile stretch; $6.3 million.

• S.C. 160 from Springfield Highway to Lancaster line: Widening the 0.75-mile stretch to three lanes; $2.5 million.

• S.C. 72 from S.C. 901 to Rambo Road: A 2-mile, three-lane widening with bikeway and sidewalk provisions; $6.7 million.

• Mount Gallant Road from Celanese to Twin Lakes roads: Widening 2 1/2 miles to three lanes with provisions for bikes; $7.9 million.

The last two projects on the 2003 list -- Eden Terrace from Bradley Street to Anderson Road and S.C. 160 from Gold Hill to Zoar roads -- are listed as "most likely to be included in the next set of road projects," according to a memo Kettlewell recently gave the council.

County Manager Jim Baker has said re-evaluating the designs in some of 2003 projects will help the county to complete as many as it can. But, he said Wednesday engineers also are looking at how to deliver projects as they were promised during the vote.

Capital Management and Engineering, the firm that has been managing the program, cut elements of certain projects to meet the budget, Baker said. Part of this review process includes bringing those projects back to original design.

"As they go back through them, they'll evaluate the changes, why they were made and whether that's still the way we want to go in that particular project," Baker said.

The county is taking over management of Pennies from CME. New county positions needed for the transition -- transportation managers and accounting clerk -- haven't been filled.

The 1997 program still has four projects awaiting construction and others are almost complete. The most recent of seven finished projects, widening less than a mile of Ebenezer Road from Dotson Street to Olde Point Avenue to three lanes, opened late last year.

Realigning the intersection of Shiloh Road and S.C. 5, is the only 2003 project completed so far.

As the county continues to take more control of the projects, the costs of these road projects will be examined to enable completion. The county also may hire a firm to re-estimate all of the remaining road projects so rising construction costs and other issues don't blindside the county again.