Fort Mill Times

Plans could ease Fort Mill traffic jams

\Anyone who drives through the Gold Hill Road/Hwy. 160 West intersection at rush hour knows something needs to be done to reduce the congestion.

The Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study Group is working on a plan to address the problem that could be in place by this time next year. The RFATS Policy Committee recently approved an application for $1.3 million to study and fix the traffic problems at the intersection. The application must still go through the S.C. Department of Transportation and the state highway commission for approval, according to York County Transportation Manager Allison Love.

"Hopefully, we'll have approval by next summer," Love said. "As for a design, we won't know exactly what will be done until we get the money and talk to a traffic engineer to see exactly what's needed."

RFATS applied for a Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant of $1.1 million for the project and a local match of $240,000 will be required for a total of $1,360,000, Pennies for Progress Program Manager Phil Leazer said. Until recently, Leazer worked with RFATS, but has been reassigned to the Pennies program, which funds roads projects with a portion of York County sales tax revenue.

Even with the RFATS support, however, the project still has a long way to go.

Approvals from SCDOT and the highway commission likely won't be finalized until at least April, Leazer said. Following the approvals, a traffic engineer will have to be hired to perform a traffic study at the intersection and devise a plan to help the traffic flow, which could happen as early as June or July. The design phase could take another three to six months. Once a plan is in place, it could take another six or seven months to acquire the necessary rights-of-way from property owners at the intersection before any construction could begin.

"Last year's projects still haven't gotten approval and funding (from the state)," Love said.

The plan supported by RFATS envisions dual left turn lanes from Hwy. 160 heading toward the North Carolina line onto Gold Hill Road and dual left turn lanes from Gold Hill Road heading toward Tega Cay onto Hwy. 160. It also includes a dedicated right turn lane from Hwy. 160 heading toward Fort Mill onto Gold Hill Road and a dedicated right turn lane on Gold Hill Road heading toward Tega Cay onto Hwy. 160, Love said.

The final design will depend on what the traffic engineer determines will improve the intersection most.

The project will not affect the 2003 Pennies project to widen Hwy. 160 from the intersection to Zoar Road to three lanes, Love said.

York County Council District 1 representative Paul Lindemann (R-Fort Mill) said the intersection has been a problem for years. Lindemann serves on the RFATS board.

"[S.C. Senator] Carl Gullick and I get a lot of calls about that one," he said. "A lot of people use it to go between districts 1 and 2."

Any improvements will be initiated by South Carolina agencies.

"North Carolina has no intention to do anything with their side of (Hwy.) 160 for at least another seven years," Lindemann added.

"Hopefully, we'll have approval by next summer."

Allison Love

York County Transportation Manager