Fort Mill Times

Editorial: Rules of the Road, Highway 49

Everybody who has a driver’s license knows, or should know, basic traffic rules like not exceeding the speed limit, not following to closely, and so on. But for those of us traveling along Highway 49, an additional sets of rules, or at least suggestions, is needed, thanks to the incredible increase in morning and afternoon rush hour traffic. It’s a situation likely to grow with more new homes and apartments coming to Lake Wylie.

So how bad is it? At 5 p.m., homecoming traffic from Charlotte backs up from the stoplight at the main entrance to River Hills, all the way to Palisades. Congestion also runs from Three Points at highways 274, 557 and 49, not to mention the backups on those roads, such as north on 274 from the light at Pole Branch Road, and the merging lanes and backup on 557 before Oakridge Road.

As the traffic volume increases so, too, could accidents. So here are a few rules of the road not found in the driver’s handbook.

Watch Out 1. To get that cup of coffee and bagel you want on the way to Charlotte in the morning, you’ll need to turn left across two lanes of traffic to reach Bagel Boat. The only way that’s going to happen is if cars in both lanes stop for you. The thing to watch out for is the possibility that the car on the outside lane doesn’t stop for you.

Watch Out 2. A better way to get that bagel may be to drive to the light at Buster Boyd Bridge and turn left. But watch for possible oncoming bridge traffic that could run the light, leaving you little reactive time to safely turn left before someone coming out from T-Bones, well, t-bones you. A protected left turn arrow there would do wonders.

Watch Out 3. The right turn. Drivers coming out of Camp Thunderbird and River Hills can turn right on red when there’s no traffic coming. But is there really no traffic? To the driver what looks clear may not be because of a dip in the road that hides an oncoming car a few hundred yards before the entrance. And when that car emerges from that dip, watch out, it’s about to put the rear end of your Lexus into the back seat.

Watch Out 4. During morning rush hour it feels like the seasons change faster than you can get through the left turn lane from 274 onto Highway 49. Impatient drivers often cut through the Publix parking lot seeking a stoplight-free alternative, darting across traffic like crazed kamikazes. Watch out for them, they’re not always watching out for you.

Watch Out 5. It’s afternoon, you’re heading home. Let’s say you get off Highway 49 and are now on Pole Branch Road. It should be smooth sailing from here, right. Wrong. Not only is the traffic bad, so is the condition of the road, otherwise known as the birthplace of potholes. So watch out, you and your car may be swallowed up never to be seen again. To add insult to possible injury the roads coming into Pole Branch come at awkward angles, setting up the potential for collisions.

The moral of this story is since no more bridges are being built, and traffic volume isn’t going to lessen, be patient and courteous. Watch out for yourself and others. The last thing any of us want is the hassle of having body work done on our cars or ourselves.

In the meantime, a federally funded planning organization that serves urbanized areas in York County is updating its long-range roads project plans. The organization, known as RFATS (The Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study) has been holding public meetings and taking online comments, letters and emails from residents voicing road concerns and offering suggestions. Comments may be submitted to RFATS at rfatsmpo.org, info@rfatsmpo.org or P.O. Box 11706, Rock Hill, SC 29731.

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