The $30 million Hard Scrabble Road project may be the first to start under the transportation improvement plan that was approved in Tuesday’s election. (Photo/James T. Hammond)
By James T. Hammond
Published Nov. 8, 2012
Richland County voters approved a sweeping transportation improvement plan in Tuesday’s election that will have far-reaching impact on the economic growth of the region.
The additional one-penny-on-the-dollar sales tax approved by voters will draw in tax revenues from residents of surrounding counties who live, work and play in Richland County. The new tax is expected to generate $1 billion for a long list of projects from the burgeoning Northeast corridor to the transformation of the Innovista district downtown into an economic engine for the city and the region.
Another central aim of the transportation plan is to provide a stable subsidy for the regional bus system and ensure its future.
A complete list of projects that County Council expects to fund with the new revenue can be seen at this website.
County officials were not available to comment on the plan this morning. A final tally of votes had been delayed by a chaotic election process that saw many county residents waiting as long as six hours to vote. But the margin of approval of the penny tax was substantial.
The long list of schools on this direction sign at the intersection of Hard Scrabble and Clemson roads is indicative of the growth in the Northeast corridor that has overwhelmed roads in the area. (Photo/James T. Hammond)
Margin of victory
The margin of more than 9,000 votes in a 53% to 47% referendum decision gives County Council the green light for improvements that have been in the works since 2006 and which voters rejected just two years ago.
Lee Bussell, who chairs the board of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said residents in the Northeast could be among the early beneficiaries of the plan.
“The citizens’ oversight committee must be activated by Jan. 31,” Bussell said. “Bonds will have to be issued, a private engineering consulting firm needs to be chosen to manage the process. Hard Scrabble Road has already had engineering done. It is shovel ready and will probably be first project where people will see construction.”
The Hard Scrabble Road corridor from Farrow Road to Lake Carolina daily sees traffic backups from the Clemson Road intersection of a mile or more. The $30 million project would widen the corridor to accommodate the burgeoning growth in the area.
Elsewhere in the county, the $72 million Shop Road extension will open a new corridor with large tracts of land that may one day attract large industrial employers. The project will build a new road where none currently exists, and is expected to level the playing field with surrounding counties in the competition for new jobs.
Some $50 million has been earmarked for improvements and new roads in downtown Columbia. The top two transportation-related priorities associated with Innovista are Greene Street from Assembly west to the to-be-constructed Williams Street Extension, also to be known as the Congaree River Parkway.
According to the plan issued by County Council, Greene Street will consist of road improvements running west from Assembly to the railroad cut; then the to-be-constructed Greene Street Bridge over the railroad cut; then from the Greene Street Bridge to Huger Street; and then Greene Street from Huger Street to the to-be-constructed Williams Street Extension.
Also included in this project will be pedestrian sidewalks and bike lanes the length of Greene Street, significant improvements to the intersection of Greene and Lincoln streets which, among other matters, will improve the traffic flows in and around the Colonial Center; and a pedestrian promenade to be located to the west of the Greene Street Bridge to Huger Street and from Huger Street to the to-be-constructed Williams Street Extension.
Williams Street Extension/Congaree River Parkway will comprise a new roadway from Blossom Street north to Gervais Street as well as completing a section of Senate Street from the new roadway to the west. This project will also entail the relocation of power lines and gas lines.