Traffic Circle Talks Continue

BLYTHEWOOD (Feb. 16, 2017) – At the outset of Town Council’s Jan. 30 meeting, Councilman Malcolm Gordge reported that he had attended as an observer that morning a meeting between Chamber of Commerce members and Ben Lewis, Project Engineer for the Richland County Penny Sales Tax Ad Hoc Committee, the purpose of which was to discuss the double-lane traffic circle slated for Blythewood Road near the entrance to Cobblestone Park.

Facilitated by the Chamber, approximately 14 Chamber members and a handful of guests met with Lewis in the Cobblestone Park Golf Club conference room.

“At this point, there appears to be about a 50-50 split between the property owners regarding a traffic light vs. a traffic circle,” Mike Switzer, Chamber Director, told The Voice recently. “This was our first meeting and I don’t think anybody is ready to commit to a preference until all their questions are answered. We have a follow-up meeting scheduled for Feb. 27, 10 a.m. at the same location.”

Switzer said that the properties near the proposed traffic circle are owned by Chamber members, while member businesses located in the University Village shopping center would also be affected by the circle.

“Therefore the Chamber has initiated this effort to bring these parties to the table with the planners so that our members’ voices can be heard before the planning gets too far along,” Switzer said. “The County planners are estimating that their second public meeting (the first was last October) will be this summer to show their final proposal and so we wanted to make sure they received our input well before then. This was a very positive meeting. It was very beneficial for these Chamber members, property owners, developers, agents, engineers and county reps to meet each other, see more details about the project, ask questions face to face, etc.”

Members want to know, Switzer said, if a traffic circle will actually perform better than a traditional four-way stop with lights. Affected property owners and businesses, he said, want to know if they will be reasonably compensated for any detrimental effects of either a circle or a four-way stop.

“All of the affected parties are wanting what is the best balance for the community and their own business interests,” Switzer said.

Lewis reported to Council at their Dec. 19 meeting that the roundabout was a go and that an executive summary of plans for the project had been given the OK by Richland County Council on Dec. 13.

But after hearing from Chamber members at the Jan. 30 meeting, Lewis and the Committee have some additional convincing to do.

“The roundabout was part of a 2012 referendum,” Lewis said, “and it is in the Town’s Master Plan. It has been evaluated in a traffic report and shown to operate efficiently.”

Nevertheless, Lewis said a comparison plan was being drawn up to be presented to Chamber members at the Feb. 27 meeting. That alternate plan – a traditional four-way stop with traffic lights – has already been studied, Lewis said, and rejected in favor of the traffic circle. However, such a plan has not been presented to the public in a mock-up, which will be the focus of the Feb. 27 meeting.

A traffic light set-up, Lewis said, “doesn’t seem to fit DOT (Department of Transportation) standards.” A roundabout, on the other hand, does.

“This section of Blythewood Road has had 80 percent of Blythewood accidents over a three-year period,” Lewis said. “DOT studies say that a roundabout reduces accidents by 80 percent. And it keeps traffic moving – there is no stoplight.”

Switzer said Chamber members hope to see a graphic and video comparison of a traffic circle vs. traffic lights at the Feb. 27 meeting. Members also hope to see estimations, he said, of the effects on nearby properties of the circle and stoplights.


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