The county could change the planned route of the Fort Mill southern bypass to allow for more lanes, something federal officials think will be needed to handle the expected increase in traffic in the fast-growing area.
The plan now calls for two lanes on the bypass, which would complete a loop around the east side of town, extending Fort Mill Parkway from Norfolk Southern Railway to the intersection of S.C. 160 and Springfield Parkway. The idea of the "Pennies for Progress" project is to reduce traffic funneled through downtown Fort Mill.
County staff members updated York County Council members on the situation at Monday's council meeting, telling them more lanes might require a different path for the bypass than the one engineers picked last year. The Federal Highway Administration has suggested having more lanes.
"We want to look at going ahead with a two-lane section now and possibly acquire enough right of way to add more lanes in the future," County Engineer Mark Kettlewell told the Herald on Monday. "It will dip into the budget a little bit deeper."
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Building the two-lane version of the 4-mile road would cost an estimated $15.2 million. The bypass is projected to handle 2,600 to 11,300 vehicles a day, increasing to 14,100 by 2030. Until the county decides where to put the bypass, Kettlewell said officials can't project how much more additional lanes would cost. No time frame for that decision has been given.
In order for the bypass to be federally approved, the county would need to study making the road four or five lanes, which could add nine more months to the planning stage for the bypass at a time when the Fort Mill school district is depending on the road being completed to help with traffic at new schools. York County made a commitment to the district to try to get the first segment of the road built by 2009.
Choosing a path for the southern bypass caused controversy last year after errors forced the rerouting of the road around the expensive Kimbrell Crossing subdivision and through an area with existing homes.
Eventually, engineers whittled more than a dozen possible paths to one that likely would result in about six relocations. A few of those homes could be in the Hensley Road area about where Legion Road ties in.
"We need to go back and take a look at which of the original alignments supports multiple lanes with least impact to area houses, which could mean a change in alignments," Kettlewell said.
Councilman Paul Lindemann, who represents the Fort Mill area, reminded the council Monday of the number of elderly people on that east side of the town who would be affected by the new road.
County Manager Jim Baker said the reason a presentation detailing the need for additional lanes was presented in Monday's council meeting is to get the word out that the plan isn't just to take houses, but to look at the best route that affects the least number of people. The council wasn't required to take action.
While FHWA approval is necessary to obtain federal funding, no additional federal money is available now. The FHWA also suggested extending the new road an additional mile from Norfolk Southern Railway to its intersection west with Spratt Street.
Construction was slated to start in 2009, but the county now needs to consider the time frame of the Fort Mill School District, who plans on placing schools on the route. Kettlewell said the county will soon meet with the district before deciding to start on the whole project at once or work in sections, Kettlewell said.
The southern bypass is high on the 2003 Pennies for Progress project list, a capital improvement sales tax program that has been plagued by rising construction costs since its implementation more than 10 years ago.
"We have a lot of issues on all the 2003 projects on what we're going to build," Councilman Rick Lee said. "This is good example of building what we need for the future or scaling back to get them all done. There's no question the two lanes won't suffice. I think we need to plan for future."
The northern bypass, also a Pennies project, was completed last fall. The county spent around $15 million to build the 4-mile, two-lane road from I-77 to S.C. 160.
They'll be public review of the southern bypass route when it's decided.