FORT MILL TOWNSHIP — By this time next year, state road planners expect to be at work relieving heavy traffic along one of York County’s most problematic drives. By Thursday, they’ll have the drawings ready to show drivers just how they’ll do it.
A drop-in public meeting is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Tega Cay Baptist Church to display planned improvements on Hwy. 160 West at both Gold Hill and Zoar roads.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation is working with York County to alleviate congestion in the area. The state agency plans to improve intersections and add turn lanes. Afterward, the county can come behind and complete the widening project approved by voters in last year’s Pennies for Progress referendum.
The local Pennies project is an $8.84 million widening of just more than a mile of Hwy. 160 to the state line, from two lanes to five. The state effort should cost about $6.5 million, program manager Julie Barker said. Barker expects right-of-way acquisition to begin next spring and followed by construction in the fall.
Thursday’s meeting will show plans only for the state project. The state looks to fund its work through congestion mitigation grants and, because the area is already a known traffic problem, safety grants.
“Because it’s so congested,” Barker said, “people take risks out there.”
Lake Wylie Lutheran Church is one such place. Traffic is backed up from that church, at the corner of Gold Hill and 160, to the interstate many mornings, and late attendees to Wednesday night Bible studies are common due to traffic. Afternoon drive cut-throughs became such a problem that the church put up plastic impediments to help protect children and others on campus at those times.
“We don’t want to hurt anybody’s car, but we do want to deter that,” church pastor Rammy Lybrand said.
Evans Tire and Wrecker Service sits at Hwy.160 and Zoar Road. Workers there on Thursday morning described the traffic situation during the early and evening rush as “hell” on the roads, and said already there were drivers “blowing horns this morning.” They’re pleased with the effort to relieve congestion, but think the construction is “probably going to screw some things up” in the interim.
A new elementary school planned for Tega Cay nearby is of particular interest, several said, with more traffic likely coming.
The new work will require land acquisition and some realignment of Zoar Road, though roads won’t be rerouted to impact property that isn’t already along Hwy. 160.
“Everything is widening from the center,” Barker said. “There won’t be any new property that isn’t along those roads.”
Public input will be taken Thursday, but there won’t be options to vote on or alternatives given. Should public sentiment require it, planners could go back and plan additional public hearings or alter plans, though it isn’t expected.
“If we need to adjust accordingly we can,” Barker said, “but they’re pretty straightforward.”