[At the bottom of the story: A map showing Hard Scrabble Road improvements]
Each Monday this month, The State newspaper will take a closer look at some of the high-profile road projects on Richland Countys construction list if voters approve an additional penny-on-the-dollar sales tax Nov. 6.
The project: Hard Scrabble Road
Preliminary work is under way on widening a six-mile stretch of Hard Scrabble Road to five lanes from two.
Whether the entire project is completed, or half of it, would be decided by the penny sales-tax vote.
Widening the most heavily traveled segments of Hard Scrabble Road, the part that runs between Farrow Road and Kelly Mill Road, would cost an estimated $48.1 million.
Now, the S.C. Department of Transportation has $24 million in federal money, enough to finish 3.8 miles of Hard Scrabble Road. It has started preliminary engineering work.
The penny sales tax plan includes another $30 million in construction money to complete the widening.
DOT program manager Ladd Gibson said traffic back-ups during rush hour at Clemson and Hard Scrabble will be addressed in the phase under way now.
The purchase of right-of-way could begin this fall, with construction on the first half of the widening starting by fall 2014, he said.
The Central Midlands Council of Governments decided to focus first on the section between Farrow Road and Lee Road. The council of governments has the lead role in local road planning.
Opponents of the sales tax say it is the states job to pay for roads like Hard Scrabble, and that the county has not worked out who would be responsible for maintenance if the county were to widen a state-owned road such as Hard Scrabble.
• A six-mile section of Hard Scrabble Road would be widened to five lanes, with a turn lane in the center. Now, most of that section between Farrow Road and Kelly Mill Road is a two lane, with no median.
• All but the last 1.4 miles would have sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes on both sides of the road. The lesser-developed section, from Lake Carolina to Kelly Mill Road, would not have sidewalks or bike lanes. On that section, DOT would install a 4-foot paved shoulder with a ditch, which would be adequate for building bike lanes and sidewalks later, Gibson said.
• Some high-traffic intersections would have more than five lanes, with dedicated lanes for people turning off Hard Scrabble Road.
• One of the biggest trouble spots at rush hour is at Clemson Road, where drivers often sit through multiple lights if they need to turn left from Clemson onto Hard Scrabble, Gibson said. There, the agency is proposing double left-turn lanes.
• The addition of double left-turn lanes on Lee Road, heading onto Hard Scrabble Road, is designed to address a similar problem. Traffic lights would be installed at three more intersections: at Palmetto Springs Drive, Lake Carolina Boulevard and Kelly Mill Road.
Why its needed
Drivers began experiencing tie-ups in 1996, the year the section around Farrow Road began to attract more traffic than it was designed to carry.
In 2003, the portion of Hard Scrabble extending to Lake Carolina exceeded capacity, according to traffic figures provided by the Central Midlands Regional Planning Council.
Traffic on Hard Scrabble Road ranges from an average of 17,000 to 26,000 cars a day, based on 2010 counts, the most recent available.
The road was designed to carry 10,000 cars a day.
That makes this two-lane road one of the most congested in Richland County, Central Midlands said. It is rated F.
Who would benefit
People who live in Northeast Richland communities like The Summit, Lake Carolina and Longcreek Plantation. The widening of Hard Scrabble Road, which runs north and south, would make it easier for people to come into town on an alternate route they probably avoid now because its so congested.
In their words
You always have to be hyper-alert when driving Hard Scrabble. Even at your best, terrible things can happen, said Northeast Richland councilwoman Val Hutchinson, who serves on the Central Midlands Council of Governments road committee and is not taking a position on the sales-tax for transportation.
View Hard Scrabble Road improvements 2012 in a larger map