Richland County is paving its first dirt roads using new standards, like narrow lanes, that will save $350,000 per mile. Cherokee Construction Co. began work earlier this month blacktopping 10 short roads scattered across the county.
While few people live along the mostly dead-end roads, boosters say its important that emergency vehicles and school buses be able to use roads that otherwise would remain ineligible for paving for years.
The program started in November to pave 1.36 miles at a cost of $899,612.75, said assistant county engineer Stacy Culbreath.
An average mile of pavement using alternative methods is $650,000 compared with $1 million-a-mile using conventional methods, Culbreath said.
The county has been considering new dirt-road standards since at least 2009. Council members Norman Jackson and Kelvin Washington pressed for adoption.
It was a long journey to get here, but we are here, and the rural areas are ready for it, Washington said.
York County began a similar pilot project this fall, transportation manager Ryan Blancke said.
So far we havent had any complaints, he said. The residents are glad to be out of the dust.
There, the county intends to keep an eye on the eight roads it paved using alternative methods to see how they hold up before deciding whether to continue the program, Blancke said.
The first two Richland County roads being paved are Summer Wind Drive and Wilson Farm Road. Both are in Lower Richland, an area where residents often complain they get passed over when it comes to getting the countys attention and dollars.
Other streets to be completed by May include Allen, Casa Lorna, Eastover and Lavender streets; Kirk and Pierce roads; Dorichlee Lane; and Larkin Court. The county is concentrating its share of state gasoline tax revenues for the next three years on paving the low-volume dirt roads, used only by local traffic.
The county has a list of 35 additional roads in line for the alternative surfaces, most in Lower Richland or Northeast Richland. Culbreath said the remainder should be designed over the winter and completed in 2014.
Without such a program in the past, the county has scraped the roads and put down gravel to keep them passable for residents, ambulances, mail carriers, school buses and firetrucks.
Washington said combining the new initiative with conventional paving, using $45 million from the local transportation sales-tax, will allow the county to address the majority of its roughly 225 miles of dirt roads.
If we do it right, within the next 10 to 12 years, we should have a majority of these dirt roads taken care of, he said. We cannot pave all of them; in fact there are people who dont want their dirt road paved.
The county has contracted with a consultant to hold community meetings and talk with residents about providing easements for dirt-road paving, including those to be paved under the new transportation sales tax.
Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.