Improvements slated for Blythewood intersections

BLYTHEWOOD – Blythewood area residents got a look last week at a new plan to improve traffic flow around and through the increasingly congested downtown streets as well as outlying busy intersections as far out as Blythewood Road and Hwy 321.

The occasion was a public information and comment meeting hosted by the town government and the Central Midlands Council of Governments (CMCOG) at Doko Manor to review renderings of proposed traffic flow improvements.

Those improvements are the result of a study done by AECOM, a firm contracted by Central Midlands COG, that began last August and included collecting traffic data and input from local businesspeople, developers and insurance companies.

“The purpose of the study is to assess the current traffic volumes for the Blythewood area and predict future ones expected over the next 20 years or so,” Town Council member Malcolm Gordge said. “AECOM is examining the areas that are most congested and/or accident prone and recommending improvements such as additional turn lanes, traffic signals, junction realignment and traffic circles.”

The dozen-plus projects are divided into short-term, mid-term and long-term recommendations. They range from adding turning lanes and signal lights at the U.S. 321-Blythewood Road and Langford Road-Trading Post Road intersections, to rerouting a portion of Langford Road to connect directly to Blythewood Road and creating a roundabout at McNulty Road and Blythewood Road, just beyond the I-77 signal light.

Gordge said there is no plan of implementation yet. He said that will follow after the study is completed, comments are assessed and a funding program investigated and developed.

The traffic study is a key element of the town’s comprehensive plan for future development.

“Blythewood has experienced unprecedented growth in population since the early 2000s and this has brought about a considerable increase in traffic through the town, particularly during morning and evening rush-hour,” Gordge said. “The rate of growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.”

Two of the biggest generators of traffic in Blythewood are Blythewood High School and the grocery stores, according to Roland Bart, Chief Transportation Planner with Central Midlands Council of Governments.

Gordge said the full traffic plan has not yet been costed out, and discussion on funding sources has not yet taken place.

While traffic problems increase by the day, Roland Bart, Chief Transportation Planner with Central Midlands Council of Governments, said the improvements are not just around the corner.

“We went for 30 years with no increase in the gas tax and now we have an increase of two cents.  People will have to be patient as we use this increase to deal with the maintenance issues,” Bart said.

While the AECOM worked closely with the Richland Penny sales tax committee in determining the necessary intersection improvements, the projects planned by the Penny Tax committee and AECOM are separate.

“Projects that can be addressed through the Richland Penny Tax are the main priority for Blythewood,” Gordge said. “But each of these is important to the town to reduce congestion, improve safety and facilitate growth.

“The input and feedback from area residents is welcomed, Transportation Director, Reginald Simmons said. “The things people tell us that are relevant to their needs we can share with the engineers and make the proper adjustments in the planning stage.”

Send suggestions concerning planned improvements by April 23. 2019, to AECOM – Attn: Patrick Tyndall, 101 Research Drive, Columbia, SC 29203-9389.