Fort Mill Times

Bypass bid a good sign for county motorists

An approved construction bid for the second phase of the Fort Mill Southern Bypass could be good news for drivers throughout York County.

Last week, York County Council approved a contract that keeps up a current trend in road construction – projects coming in at or under budget. Phil Leazer, program manager with the county’s Pennies for Progress program, said costs are coming in “very, very favorably” countywide and at present there aren’t any in his program that are over budget.

Close to 150 bids were solicited for the Bypass phase, and the county advertised the project through several organizations prior to the Feb. 13 cut-off. Triangle Grading and Paving out of Burlington, N.C., submitted the lowest bid at just more than $8.57 million.

Phase II work includes 3.25 miles of roadway from Holbrook Road to Hwy. 160 East. It will be a two-lane road with 12-foot travel lanes and two-foot paved shoulders.

Funding for the project already is in place through the 2003 Pennies campaign, a one-cent sales tax to pay for road improvements within the county. All four phases of the bypass had a construction budget of a little more than $31 million. Even with the latest bid, the last needed for the project, more than $10.5 million remains in the construction budget.

Leazer said there still are problems that could cut into that figure, such as soil issues, utility relocation, repair work to impacted properties nearby or fluctuating material costs. But, he’s confident the project will be completed under budget.

“We could be $3-$4 million under budget,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of project to go out there.”

Several reasons impact the favorable bids coming into county offices. A state emphasis on road maintenance means fewer jobs for new road construction, Leazer said. Raw material costs aren’t bumping up the budget. As large projects like the Bypass finish up under projected costs, the beneficiaries will be country drivers who see more funding moved to smaller areas of need.

“It goes to another project,” Leazer said of excess funds. “It’s required by law. There are projects down the list that are waiting for funding to be freed up once these larger projects are finished.”

The Pennies program includes county referendum votes in 1997, 2003 and 2011. Those three decisions account for more than 50 projects at more than $545 million. The most recent vote ranged from major projects like a $25.77 million widening of Pole Branch Road in Lake Wylie and more than $50 million for five Fort Mill projects, to almost $10 million for paving gravel roads throughout the county.

As for the Bypass, ongoing phase I construction should be complete and the road open to traffic in December of 2014. A meeting with the bid winner for phase two should happen late this week and construction should begin in 60 days. That phase should be complete by December of 2015.