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LAKE WYLIE --
The message from road planners to Lake Wylie drivers is clear. Where help is needed, say so.
Planners with the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study met Tuesday with residents at Lake Wylie Public Library, asking for direction in spending federal money set aside for use in urban area planning. RFATS includes roads in Lake Wylie, Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Tega Cay and the Catawba Indian Nation, and is looking to expand farther west into Lake Wylie and east into the Indian Land panhandle.
Meetings are being held throughout York County seeking public comment for a 2040 long-range plan.
“If you’ve got something that you think is a problem, we would absolutely love to hear it,” said David Hooper, RFATS coordinator.
The top priority on 2009 plan was to study a possible bridge from Mount Gallant Road in Rock Hill to Sutton Road in Fort Mill. A decision was made not to continue pursuing that bridge, leaving the group to consider other road needs. Yet the backlog of traffic on the Celanese Road in Rock Hill, which initially sparked the bridge idea, will have to be addressed in the new survey of area needs.
“Does the bridge project come to the top again, or does it not?” Hooper asked.
In Lake Wylie, it was Buster Boyd Bridge and heavily trafficked S.C. 49 causing concern.
“I see connectivity as an issue,” said John Rinehart, resident and candidate for the Dist. 2 seat on York County Council. “There’s one way in. That’s it.”
The founder of a real estate company, Rinehart is concerned “pent up” demand for housing caused by the economic recession could make road infrastructure critical as the housing market turns.
“This next round is going to surpass anything we’ve seen,” he said.
Resident Nancy Mead says S.C. 49 “will continue to be a problem” even with alternative routes, such as the Garden Parkway in North Carolina.
“We love the lake, but it’s a major barrier,” Mead said.
Planners are looking at Lake Wylie in response to the Garden Parkway, a proposed toll road connecting Gaston and Mecklenburg counties just a few miles north of the state line. Phil Leazer, county engineer, said the road will help areas like highways 274 and 49 by giving residents of both Carolinas another option into Charlotte and the airport. But, he said, such projects may lead to more development, bringing more people and more vehicles.
“This Garden Parkway, what it is going to do is going to be huge for the Lake Wylie area,” Leazer said.
Previous long-range planning by RFATS considered about $55 million to spend. Now, with the latest U.S. Census data and more area included, planners are looking at more than $95 million. Along with more than $400 million already invested into the RFATS area through Pennies for Progress projects, the federal money needs to tackle the most pressing needs in the most regional way possible.
RFATS leaders know what some needs are, like having “to take some of the dependency off” of S.C. 49, Leazer said. But they still need help.
“You all travel these roads every day,” Leazer said. “We don’t. We need your help.”
To voice your opinions, visit rfatsmpo.org for contact information and future meeting dates. Items to be considered include new construction, but also bike and pedestrian access, environmental concerns and transit options.