SC DOT and county staff hosted a meeting regarding potential improvements to SC 153 last Thursday at the Powdersville Library.
The Powdersville Transportation Study has met several times this year.
“Through all the struggles, there’s a plan out there now,” said Councilman Ken Waters. “There’s just a few little things that we can tweak a little bit.”
Anderson County Transportation Director Holt Hopkins said the group originally looked at “what needs to happen in Powdersville.”
“We narrowed it down to Highway 153 — that was the top priority,” Hopkins said.
Officials presented “a conceptual plan” to attendees of the meeting.
“This is not written in stone yet,” Hopkins said. “But if you as a group are okay with some of the concepts presented tonight, we’ll take it up a notch. We’ll start talking with funding folks —GPATS. We’ll start trying to develop these into real projects.”
Some of the projects may have to be separated out, Hopkins said.
Kevin McLaughlin with SC DOT walked the group through the conceptual plan.
The plan calls for making SC 153 “a leftover” or “limited access crossover,” McLaughlin said.
He called leftovers “a kind of outside the box idea,” that has not been implemented often in this portion of the state.
“Normally in a divided earth median highway, you have breaks in the earth median to provide access — and those breaks right now are unlimited,” McLaughlin said. “Someone coming from the side streets or somewhere on the main line can make all the turning movements through that crossover.
“What a leftover is, the only movement allowed through that center median area is the left turn off the mainline,” McLaughlin said. “It helps keep traffic flow moving.”
The median breaks now “don’t function well” because all kinds of turns are allowed in them, creating bunched up traffic in the median as drivers attempt to turn, he said.
“With the leftover, the only thing that go in there is the left turns off the mainline and they are channelized to the appropriate point, and there’s no confusion,” McLaughlin said.
Side streets would be right-in right-only, but the plan would establish U-turns at some existing crossover points or create new U-turn lanes on Highway 153.
Planners also hope to create frontage roads to allow drivers to get to commercial destinations in Powdersville without having to get on Highway 153.
Those frontage roads would help reduce congestion on Highway 153, McLaughlin said.
Officials hope to work with developers and business owners on creating those frontage roads.
“DOT and the county are not in the development business,” said Principal Judy Shelato. “That’s private enterprise. But at the same time, we feel we need to have a public-private partnership in getting our goals here, to better their success with their businesses and business development and us being able to get people off the roads. So that in the end, the locals who need to get to places can get to places without having to be on 153 — especially at those peak times.”
Planners said that in addition to reducing congestion on SC 153, the plans are aimed at eliminating vehicles backing up onto Interstate 85 as they await turning onto SC 153.
“That’s devastating,” she said. “We have to avoid that at all costs.”
Adding a lane to the bridge that crosses I-85 “would be extremely expensive and way in the future” Shelato said, adding that planners are trying to focus on projects that could be done in the next five to 10 years.
McLaughlin said DOT is recommending that traffic signal be installed at SC 153 and Roe Road.
Hopkins said the area has a chance to obtain funding for some enhancement projects.
“We have an opportunity for some funds that we don’t want to let slip through our fingers,” Hopkins said.
He said that Anderson County “is only going to get a piece of the pie” of GPATS enhancement project funding that will be available in 2015.
The funds can’t be used for the proposed improvements to SC 153, Hopkins said.
“It’s can’t be for intersections, it can’t be used for safety projects, it can’t be used for asphalt,” he said.
The funding can be used to make entrances into Powdersville prettier, or it could be used for sidewalks or to create bicycle trails, Hopkins said.
“It has to enhance alternatives to using automobiles,” he said.
The county will receive $230,000, but the funding requires a 20 percent match.
“We need to, over the next year, to identify what project this community wants to use that funding for,” Hopkins said. “From the staff side, we have no idea what this community wants, what the high priority (for Powdersville) is when it comes to this.”
Residents asked if the funding could be used to create more sidewalks near the Wren Schools.
Planners said that a second phase of sidewalk construction near those schools is set to begin in the summer of 2012.
“More sidewalks are coming,” Hopkins said. “That’s a whole different pot of money.”
Another meeting is slated for February 2, 2012 to discuss ways this funding can be used.
“At that meeting, all I want to talk about is enhancements,” Hopkins said, adding that time is needed to form a plan before the 2015 funding becomes available. “I really don’t want to lose this money, because if you don’t grab it, Taylors will grab in or Fountain Inn. Somebody will get this money, and we need it for something.”
Check back with the Post for more details on that meeting as it approaches.
Since the group last met, a number of improvements have been implemented, including adding a turning lane at Three Bridges Road.
McLaughlin said a four-way stop has been created at the Roe Road and Hood Road intersection.
“There’s two sharp curves in that area,” McLaughlin said. “We’re trying to slow that traffic down and improve the safety at that intersection.”
Sgt. Jamie Crawford said his CATCH team has been working on Hood Road, a high-traffic area.
“There’s been over 100 citations, over 300 warnings written,” he said. “We don’t get up here as often as we’d like, but we’re trying. I wish I could tell you we could be up there everyday, but we can’t.”
The CATCH team covers a large area with a small staff, Crawford said.
Crawford watched the new four-way stop before the meeting.
“Nobody ran through it,” he said. “Whoever came up with that, I think that’s a very good idea.
Ted Hughes, who lives off of Hood Road, said it helps when the CATCH team is out enforcing traffic laws and speed limits, but the long lulls between CATCH team visits hurt the cause.
“People are not taking heed to the speed limit,” Hughes said.
Joan Hughes agreed. “It’s awful,” she said. “They fly down that road.”
“I tell my guys not to write tickets unless you absolutely have to,” Crawford said. “We don’t want to take money out of people’s pockets. We know everybody’s on tough times. But after tonight, I might have to start telling them to stop writing warnings and start writing citations.”
Ted Hughes agreed.
“You take money out of people’s pockets, you’ll get people’s attention,” he said.
Flashers will be installed in the Powdersville High School school zone, McLaughlin said.
The county’s C-Funds has committed to fund paving Hood Road, Hopkins said.