No relief soon from River Bluff High traffic congestion

tflach@thestate.comSeptember 10, 2013 

Road improvements intended to ease congestion at a busy Lexington intersection are in limbo.

FILE PHOTOGRAPH — The State Buy Photo

— Traffic congestion is likely to surround the new River Bluff High School near Lexington until mid-2015, a year longer than expected, some members of Lexington County Council said Tuesday.

The delay comes after county leaders learned engineering studies needed to start acquisition of frontage for road improvements near the school aren’t complete.

“We didn’t know we didn’t have everything we needed,” council chairman Bill Banning said.

The opening of the 1,500-plus student high school Aug. 19 has resulted in heavy weekday traffic on roads around the school, particularly for morning commuters. State traffic counts estimate 30,000 vehicles travel through the area daily, making it among the busiest intersections in the Midlands.

“It’s very slow going,” said Lt. Matt Davis, who oversees town police traffic patrols.

The delay in completing the studies stalls an effort by council members to force landowners to sell slivers of frontage, so the U.S. 378-Corley Mill Road intersection near I-20 can be widened to carry more traffic. Council members took that step July 23 after landowners backed away from providing slivers totaling 1.1 acres needed to widen and realign the intersection on the east edge of Lexington.

It may take until next summer for the studies to be finished so a judge then can review them as part of deciding whether the county will be able to force the landowners to sell the frontage, Banning said. Officials originally had hoped to have all the widening completed by next summer.

Town Mayor Randy Halfacre called for “a second effort” to reach a deal with landowners to speed up the work.

The $3.5 million package of road improvements is a partnership among state, county, Lexington 1 and town officials. It’s unclear who is responsible for the studies in question.

No measure of delays from the school has occurred, but town police Chief Terrence Green said “it’s very heavy up there.”

Families of students are traveling to the school on Corley Mill earlier than expected for an 8:15 am. start of classes, reducing problems somewhat, Green and Davis said.

Some council members hope two additional lanes on U.S. 378 gained through restriping lanes will be beneficial until the goal of diverting school traffic a few blocks west through road realignment is accomplished.

“We’ll see how this works out,” Councilman Todd Cullum of Cayce said.

The delay is an unwelcome surprise for Halfacre.

“It’s very disheartening and disconcerting,” he said. “We’ve got to get our arms around it and get it done.”

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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