Despite weather, York County road work is getting done faster. Except on one highway.

The fourth phase of Pennies for Progress is projected to be the largest and most expensive roads-fix plan ever proposed in York County.
The fourth phase of Pennies for Progress is projected to be the largest and most expensive roads-fix plan ever proposed in York County.

Even with all the wet weather in recent months, road construction projects in York County overall are moving faster than they have in the past, and in places faster than expected, officials say.

Yet there are exceptions.

The S.C. 274 and Pole Branch Road project in Lake Wylie can’t catch a break with the weather.

“Obviously the rain and winter has really hurt us on that project,” said Patrick Hamilton, Pennies for Progress program manager. “We’ve been trying to do a detour on Pole Branch Road for about two-and-a-half months now and haven’t been able to get that scheduled. Because every time a weekend comes around we’re trying to get it done, it rains a couple days before or all that weekend.”

Hamilton updated the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study policy committee Friday on work spanning dozens of roads.

That group includes mayors, municipal planners, state and regional transportation staffers. Largely the Pennies program, a voter-approved one-cent sales tax charged in York County to fund road work, is humming. Projects in various planning phases are seeing the paperwork pushed faster than in past Pennies referendums.

But the under construction projects, like Pole Branch in Lake Wylie, have to deal with the elements.

“The contractor’s still working,” Hamilton said. “He’s still getting some pipe installed. Utilities are still getting moved. But it’s hurting us a little bit as far as trying to get some bridge work started.”

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York County Councilwoman Allison Love has a concern just west of the Pole Branch work, too. Pole Branch comes down to the Three Points intersection in Lake Wylie, where S.C. 557, 49 and 274 meet.

Pennies work includes widening of S.C. 557 from that intersection to S.C. 55 in Clover.

At the most recent council meeting, Love requested the county set up a public meeting by the end of February to discuss that widening.

“There was originally several meetings held, and after those meetings the plans changed drastically,” Love said. “And yet the people have not been notified of that. So people are unsure of exactly what it looks like.”

The Pennies program lists two projects, a $25 million widening to five lanes from Kingsburry Road to Three Points and a $25.5 million widening the rest of the way to Clover. Right-of-way is being acquired for the five-lane widening. The three-lane widening is in early design.

Love posted on her Facebook page the work on the Clover end would widen to three lanes, sparking comments from residents stating it should be five, that they weren’t aware it only would be three lanes or that narrowing from five to three would bottleneck the road.

Beyond Lake Wylie and its weather, Pennies work generally has a good pace going.

Leaders ahead of the most recent referendum in 2017 vowed to find ways of getting projects done faster, and thus cheaper. Partnerships with SCDOT emerged for much of the pre-construction requirements. York County approved a $16 million loan to get work started ahead of actual tax collection several months after the vote.

The county opened bids Jan. 8 on 19 miles of resurfacing work on the western side of the county, but also including Eden Terrace and Oak Pond in Rock Hill, and along Cherry Road from Alumni Drive to Cherry Park. The Cherry Road work includes pedestrian safety improvements.

U.S. 21 south turn lanes in the Catawba area, like the resurfacing work, is a partnership with SCDOT for bidding.

“Added with the loan that county council gave us back in November of 2017, this has allowed all these projects to get started that much sooner,” Hamilton said. “Now that these two projects have been bid out, we’ve already bid out over half the resurfacing projects on Pennies 4.”

The 19 miles of resurfacing, Cherry Road work and U.S. 21 turn lanes should be constructed this year. Several other phases of resurfacing from the most recent Pennies vote have SCDOT helping by bidding the projects, too.

“We anticipate to have all the projects completed by 2021, from the resurfacing projects,” Hamilton said.

The first group of resurfacing projects is under construction now.

“This included the Rock Hill and Fort Mill roads,” Hamilton said. “Mount Gallant Road and Harris Road are still left to be completed on that contract.”

Work also is ongoing for the second group.

“That’s more of the western side of the county,” Hamilton said. “Those roads should be completed this year as well.”

Along with Pole Branch, the intersection at Anderson and Cowan Farm roads in Rock Hill and widening of McConnells Highway are under construction. McConnells Highway should be done this spring.

“That was delayed earlier on in the project due to some utility relocations,” Hamilton said. “All those relocations are done. Now it’s just fighting the weather.”

The intersection improvement has most of its clearing done now.

“That one hopefully will be wrapping up by the end of this calendar year,” Hamilton said.

Several projects from the 2011 Pennies campaign are moving toward construction. The county opened bids Jan. 16 on a multi-lane widening of S.C. 160 West, with Blythe Development submitting the lowest. Council could decide to award the bid Feb. 4.

“That will put construction starting around probably March timeframe,” Hamilton said.

The I-77 and Gold Hill Road interchange should have bids ready by May.

“The plans are approved, but there’s a couple of last minute things to finalize all the federal requirements,” Hamilton said. “Construction, this summer, should be getting started on that project.”

The county should start acquiring right-of-way in February for three projects — S.C. 160 East in Fort Mill, Riverview Road in Rock Hill and S.C. 72 south of Rock Hill. A stakeholder meeting for the Riverview work is set for March 5 to fill in property and business owners on plans. Construction could begin this summer.

Other projects are in the design phase. The county has agreed to a scope and fee for a consultant to design the five-lane widening of U.S. 21 in Fort Mill from Springfield Parkway to S.C. 160. A contract could be approved Feb. 4. That project was No. 15 of 16 in the most recent Pennies vote.

“That was not initially included with the first group that we started design on due to funding, and it being toward the bottom of the referendum,” Hamilton said. “We have gone back through and realized we do have enough cash now to go ahead and start the design on it.”

Other projects are further off still.

The second phase of work at Celriver Road in Rock Hill has a conceptual plan submitted to the state, but the county has to get that report back before starting preliminary design. Several more steps predate construction.

“You’re talking probably 2023, ballpark,” Hamilton said. “A lot of it depends on right-of-way acquisition. That can take anywhere from a year to two years.”

The Celriver phase includes a Galleria Boulevard extension, but it will be separate since Rock Hill and not the state will own the extension.

“We’re going to try to do that project kind of ahead of when Celriver widens,” Hamilton said.

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John Marks covers community growth, municipalities and general news mainly in the Fort Mill and York County areas. He began writing for the Herald and sister papers in 2005 and won dozens of South Carolina Press Association and other awards since.
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