Crews are about to start ripping up trees along S.C. 901, signaling the start of a road-widening project more than a decade in the making.
The $13 million plan is aimed at improving a key link between Interstate 77 and southern York County, where commerce has lagged compared to other areas. Work started this week and is expected to take two years.
Among the changes planned:
• In the first year, workers will eliminate an awkward fork at the intersection of Saluda Street and Albright Road by creating a standard four-way intersection with turn lanes and traffic lights.
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• Then, the focus will shift entirely to widening S.C. 901 from two to five lanes on a 5-mile stretch between Heckle Boulevard and I-77.
It's one of two "Pennies for Progress" projects voted on in 1997 that are starting construction this spring. The other is S.C. 49 in western York County.
"If you're coming from the south, it keeps you from having to go three or four exits further," said Republican state Rep. Carl Gullick of Lake Wylie, who pushed the idea back in 1997 when he was on the York County Council. "We knew Cherry Road had congestion. We knew Dave Lyle would increase. It would be nice to have a third entrance."
The price tag for work on S.C. 901 has nearly tripled over the past decade. Originally, it was estimated at $5.4 million. That figure rose in 2002 to $7.6 million and again to about $13 million last year.
Increases to the cost of steel and oil are responsible for the increase. The project was delayed for a year because the county had to negotiate to buy land in the right of way.
Now, the contractor in charge, U.S. Group of Columbia, is making it a point to notify the public in advance so drivers will know to expect delays. Construction updates are posted online at 901Construction.com.
"The public has a right to know. It's their money," U.S. Group spokesman Earl Capps said. "Road work can sometimes try people's patience. But they're a lot more forgiving if they feel you respect them enough to open up a channel of communication."