Tega Cay mulling money swap for road needs

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comOctober 8, 2012 

— It’s possible that giving away money for one of Tega Cay’s longest running road projects could put pavement to the ground faster.

Last week city officials heard a case for rerouting more than $600,000 from the Hubert Graham Way project, also known as the Tega Cay/Gold Hill connector, to another area of need. Doing so, said county engineer Phil Leazer, “will greatly reduce the amount of time, effort and expense” needed for both projects.

Tega Cay currently has $666,900 in federal grant money for improvements along Gold Hill Road, slated for use with Hubert Graham Way. Yet now, Leazer said, that money is obsolete for that project due to the county Pennies for Progress program.

“We can build Hubert Graham Way without it,” he said.

Plus, using the money would make the connector a federal project rather than a local one, as it would be if relying solely on county dollars.

“Which would have delayed it out anywhere from two to three years further,” said Mayor George Sheppard.

According to penniesforprogress.net, the 2003 Pennies campaign included the connector with plans to begin right-of-way acquisition this fall and construction this coming March. Construction would last until December of 2014. The $1.4 million, half-mile project would be two lanes and connect the Stonecrest development with Gold Hill Road.

A public hearing is expected early next year on a state Department of Transportation project at Gold Hill Road and Hwy. 160 to alleviate congestion there. That project already is a federal one, but isn’t fully funded. If the money set aside for the connector goes toward the Gold Hill/Hwy. 160 project instead, both could benefit.

The city is still mulling the move. Sheppard wants timelines for both projects before giving up the connector money, and doesn’t want to give it up and have someone come back later looking for more to complete Hubert Graham Way.

“The city is asking for some guarantees,” Sheppard said.

If the money is transitioned, Leazer anticipates construction to begin on the connector by the end of next year, ‘if we continue to make that a locally owned project.” The “critical” needs at Gold Hill Road and Hwy.160 could begin construction in 2014. Both projects will be completed “cheaper and faster” than if the money stays put.

“The federal process and all of the red tape you have to go through ends up costing a project at least two years,” Leazer said.

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