LAKE WYLIE — By mid-summer, Lake Wylie residents will get a look at road improvements coming to Pole Branch Road. However, it could be four years before residents are driving on a new road.
Visible flag markers dot the road where the county started marking alignment options in October for the more than $25 million widening near the state line, approved in Pennies for Progress by county voters in 2011. Jim Gaddy, York County project engineer, said he’s hoping to have alignment options ready for a public information meeting in July. The county could then “tweak” a proposed alignment based on feedback – particularly relating to safety concerns – before sending it to the state Department of Transportation for approval.
Given that timeline, right-of-way acquisition planning would begin in December 2014. A right-of-way purchase would be made in February 2015, with construction sent to bid in September that year. A ribbon-cutting on the new road would be expected in 2017.
“The construction will take about two years,” Gaddy said. “Work’s going non-stop, it’s just that this alignment phase is a long process.”
The Pole Branch project was the most expensive and overall second highest priority job on the 2011 Pennies for Progress vote, an overall $161 million effort throughout the county. Another large, earlier Pennies project last week highlighted a trend that county planners say is good news for drivers throughout the county.
County Council approved a construction contract for the Fort Mill Southern Bypass second phase that should bring the project in under budget. Phil Leazer, program manager with the Pennies program, said costs are coming in “very, very favorably” countywide, and none of the projects in his program are over budget. Even with the long-range forecasting for Pole Branch, the same is expected there.
“As long as the price of asphalt and gasoline don’t shoot up, as long as they remain somewhat stable, we’re fairly confident we can complete this project and come in under budget,” Gaddy said.
Close to 150 bids were solicited for the Bypass phase, and the county advertised the project through several organizations before the Feb. 13 cut-off. Triangle Grading and Paving out of Burlington, N.C., submitted the lowest bid at $8.57 million.
Phase 2 work includes 3.25 miles of roadway from Holbrook Road to S.C. 160. It will be a two-lane road with 12-foot travel lanes and two-foot paved shoulders.
Funding for the project already is in place through the 2003 Pennies campaign, a one-cent sales tax to pay for road improvements within the county. All four phases of the bypass had a construction budget of a little more than $31 million. Even with the latest bid, the last needed for the project, more than $10.5 million remain in the construction budget.
Leazer said there still are problems that could cut into that figure like soil issues, utility relocation, repair work to impacted properties nearby or fluctuating material costs. But, he’s confident the project will be completed under budget.
“We could be $3-$4 million under budget,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of project to go out there.”
Several reasons impact the favorable bids coming into county offices. A state emphasis on road maintenance means fewer jobs for new road construction, Leazer said. Raw material costs aren’t bumping up the budget. As large projects like the Bypass finish up under projected costs, the beneficiaries will be country drivers who see more funding moved to smaller areas of need.
The Pennies program includes county referendum votes in 1997, 2003 and 2011. Those three decisions account for more than 50 projects at more than $545 million.
The most recent vote ranged from major projects like a $25.77 million widening of Pole Branch Road in Lake Wylie and more than $50 million for five Fort Mill projects, to almost $10 million for paving gravel roads throughout the county.
As for the Bypass, ongoing phase one construction should be complete and the road open to traffic in December 2014. A meeting with the bid winner for phase two should happen late this week and construction should begin in 60 days. That phase should be complete by December 2015.