Why chamber backs Dave Lyle extension

Last month's news reports of the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce's position on the Dave Lyle Boulevard extension omitted some key information. Our position on the well-known and long-discussed proposal for a new road and river bridge was approved by the chamber board of directors on July 11. The board's decision was based on the recommendation of the chamber's government relations task force, and made only after two months of considering much background information, recent issues and current circumstances relative to the road extension.

In addition to supporting the proposed project and the solicitation of state infrastructure construction funds, the resolution approved by the chamber board also reiterates the chamber's support of York County's comprehensive land-use plan. The chamber's resolution also clearly calls for adherence to the plan by any development activities that may result from the road.

The idea of extending Dave Lyle Boulevard, from near the Rock Hill Galleria to S.C. 521 in Lancaster County, is not new. For years, many saw the project (which would include a new bridge over the Catawba River) as essential to improving connectivity within York County by assisting in relieving current and future congestion on other east-west corridors.

Many leaders in both Carolinas believed that the project would serve as a major link between Interstate 85 and S.C. 521, thus becoming a southern "outer-outer beltway" for the entire Charlotte region. Also, the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study (RFATS) for years has listed the Dave Lyle Boulevard extension as a "project of regional interest" in its long-range plan.

The business community's long-time support of the project also is not new. In December 1997, the Rock Hill Area Chamber signed on to the application for state funding of the "Dave Lyle Connector Project," along with several other major projects that would promote economic development and tourism. Earlier that year, all six of the county's chambers of commerce issued respective resolutions of support for the connector as a key project in the county's first Pennies For Progress road improvement referendum. Also, business leaders heralded the road extension as critical to connecting retail customers located east of Interstate 77 to commercial businesses in the York County region.

The above (and other) reasons for supporting the Dave Lyle extension still are valid today. In fact, given the county and region's accelerated growth rate compared with the growth in the prior decade, this rationale is arguably even stronger now. However, as local and state leaders currently evaluate the merits of the proposed road, there is a different set of circumstances and a new political landscape this time around.

One new circumstance is the Newland Communities' large and controversial residential development that would benefit from the extension of Dave Lyle Boulevard. Newland is a member in good standing and a supporter of the chamber. Representatives of the developer requested, and were granted, an opportunity to discuss their information and thoughts related to the road project.

The chamber's government relations task force listened to Newland and others on both sides of the issue before developing their recommendation. The chamber task force and board agreed that the road/bridge project must be considered separately from the planned development, and our groups remained true to that commitment.

Another thing that is different today compared with five or 10 years ago is the county's comprehensive land-use plan. Regardless of one's opinion of the plan and its many facets, it is the prescribed and approved blue print for the county's growth in the foreseeable future. The chambers appointed a number of representatives to the citizens' committee that developed and recommended the plan, and the Regional Chamber supported the plan approved by County Council in 2004.

The county's land-use plan document is divided into 10 elements, with one being fully devoted to the topic of transportation. The stated goal for the plan's transportation element is, "Develop and maintain a roadway network that safely and efficiently accommodates vehicular traffic at acceptable levels of service, while supporting sound growth and economic development." The chamber board believes the proposed Dave Lyle Boulevard extension project is a perfect fit for the roadway network criteria described in the county's plan.

The chamber's July 11 resolution includes three key statements: (1) Dave Lyle Boulevard should be extended over the Catawba River to S.C. 521 and should be primarily funded by the State Infrastructure Bank; (2) York County Council, Rock Hill City Council and other appropriate governmental officials should work together to seek state infrastructure funds; and (3) Any future development activities resulting from the road extension should be consistent with the county's land-use plan.

We believe each of these points to be equally important to the business community, and the chamber will continue to diligently support efforts to build this and other infrastructure vital to the county and region.