County OK’s Traffic Circle

BLYTHEWOOD (Dec. 29, 2016) – The roundabout is on its way, Ben Lewis, Project Engineer for the Richland County Penny Sales Tax Ad Hoc Committee, reported to Town Council during their Dec. 19 meeting.

The double-lane traffic circle, to be located near the entrance to Cobblestone Park, is the key feature of the upcoming Blythewood Road project, and the executive summary of plans for the project was given the OK by Richland County Council on Dec. 13.

Lewis said the Ad Hoc Committee reviewed public comments after an Oct. 20 public meeting held at Blythewood Middle School and found seven comments in favor of the roundabout and eight against it.

“The takeaway from the public meeting, we went back to the drawing board, we looked at all the proposals, we reviewed all the comments,” Lewis said. “We developed what is called an executive summary to our concept report. This is basically our summary of recommendations to County Council, and from that we included that we were going to move forward with constructing Alternate A, which had the shared-use paths; we were going to design and construct the double-lane roundabout. Of course the roundabout was included in the Town of Blythewood’s Master Plan.”

Lewis said 80 percent of accidents on Blythewood Road occur at the entrance to the Food Lion shopping center, adjacent to the Cobblestone entrance.

“The plan there would be to make that a right-in, right-out only,” Lewis said. “That would improve the safety. People who would want to make a left to I-77 would make a right and go around the roundabout.”

The new Palmetto Citizens Bank would lose its Blythewood Road entrance with the creation of the roundabout, Lewis said, but it would retain its entrance from the shopping center drive.

Councilman Larry Griffin said he had seen traffic circles actually cause more congestion and accidents than traffic signals and expressed that concern to Lewis.

“The DOT (S.C. Department of Transportation) has done a considerable amount of study,” Lewis said. “They’re doing more roundabouts throughout the state. They’re showing around an 80 percent reduction in vehicular accidents when they install a roundabout rather than a four-lane intersection or a traffic signal.”

And, Town Administrator Gary Parker pointed out, with traffic slowing to navigate the roundabout, typical accidents would be mere fender-benders and not fatal, high-speed collisions.

“My concerns were about the aesthetics of getting into Cobblestone,” Councilman Tom Utroska said, “and with the semi’s making left turns. There needs to be some truck restrictions.”

Lewis said big-rigs traveling from Community Road onto I-77 would have a bypass lane to take them onto the interstate without having to circle the roundabout. Meanwhile, lanes within the roundabout would be designed to accommodate tractor-trailers coming from I-77 onto Community Road.

As far as how much of the existing entrance to Cobblestone Park would be consumed by the roundabout, Lewis said between 60 and 75 feet, “depending on where you locate the roundabout.”

“That’s something we’ve been looking at, too,” Lewis said, “dealing with the concerns of the public. There’s a lot of vacant land on the other side of Cobblestone. We could shift the roundabout and take that circle and move it away from the entrance.”

Lewis said plans for the project should be completed by the end of January, with construction scheduled to begin in 2019. The project, which will include lane widening to Syrup Mill Road, is estimated to take 12 to 16 months to complete, he said.