Published on December 20th, 2016 | by Millennium Magazine Staff0
Residents get first look at proposed Broad River Road widening
Planned Penny Transportation project offers multiple options
Residents in the Dutch Fork area got a peek into future travel possibilities when representatives from the Richland County Penny Tax Program shared preliminary ideas for widening 5.1 miles of Broad River Road.
Construction on the $36.2 million project is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2020. But on Thursday evening at Dutch Fork Elementary School, penny tax program representatives were on hand to present residents three options that include pedestrian and bicycle paths in addition to widening the road between Royal Tower Drive and Interstate-26 at the exit 97 near Peak.
“It’s always fun when we get to the point where we can show some options to the public,” said Rob Perry, Richland County’s transportation director. “That’s what this is all about. In six to nine months, we’ll come back with a second meeting, with options based on what we hear tonight.”
The Broad River Road project will begin at Royal Tower Drive, between I-26 at Exit 101 and Dutch Fork Elementary where the road narrows to two lanes. It will fork right at Dutch Fork Road, just before Walmart in Ballentine, and end at I-26 at Exit 97.
Broad River Road will be widened to five lanes between Royal Tower Drive and Dutch Fork Road, and to three lanes between Dutch Fork Road and I-26.
The project will also include improvements to an .8 mile stretch of Dutch Fork Road between Broad River Road and Millplace Drive.
“The Irmo/Chapin community continues to grow because of our best-in-state school district and our proximity to Lake Murray,” S.C. Rep. Nathan Ballentine said. “Broad River Road is a main thoroughfare that can get congested very easily. Additional lanes and improved routes have been needed for a while and I’m glad to see results are on the way.”
Thursday’s open-house style meeting drew 185 community members eager to get a first look at project options. They were encouraged to fill out and leave comment cards stating their preferences, concerns and requests.
“It’s very important that we give the public input,” said David Beaty, an engineer with the project. “This is their project in their community. We want a conversation about what they want and how they want it done.”
Currently, about 22,000 vehicles travel that stretch of Broad River Road each day. That number is projected to grow to 34,000 by 2043.
“The more lanes they can put out there the better,” said Harriett Hallinan, a community member at the meeting.
Irmo Town Councilman Barry Walker said it’s obvious heavy traffic on Broad River Road justifies the widening project.
When I leave here tonight, I’ll have to turn right even though I want to go left,” he said. He hopes to get a traffic signal at Royal Tower Road as well.
Dave Weissman, transportation coordinator for District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties, said widening the road will help school traffic, especially in the mornings.
“We’re all competing for the same piece of property at the same time,” Weissman said.
He appreciated having the opportunity to see the plans, and offer feedback, this early in the process.
“I’m impressed they are listening to the community,” Weissman said. “There are a lot of people here (from the Penny Tax Program) answering questions, taking comments.”
The proposals presented Thursday had three options:
One option would have a bike lane just off the road with a raised pedestrian path just beside it.
A second option would include a bike path with a grass buffer between the curb and pedestrian path.
The third option would combine a wider raised bike and pedestrian path with a grass buffer between the path and the road.
Brenda Waites, a community member who attended the meeting, liked having the bicycle lane off the road.
“I like to ride a bike and I don’t like to ride that close to the road,” she said.
Waites and Hallinan both liked the open-house approach of the community meeting.
“They had plenty of people to answer questions,” Hallinan said.
“It’s very informative,” Waites said. “I like it. You can ask what you need.”
Ballentine appreciates his constituents having input.
“Hearing firsthand the questions, concerns and suggestions from the people impacted everyday should help the design and build teams with their work,” he said.
The Broad River Road widening project is part of The Penny Program approved by voters in November 2012. The Penny Program includes projects throughout Richland County during a 22-year period or until $1.07 billion in sales tax revenue is collected, whichever occurs first. The program includes such projects as road widenings, intersection improvements, sidewalks, bikeways, dirt road paving and greenways.