New group to study U.S. 521

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By Chris Sardelli

A new committee has begun looking at future plans for U.S. 521.

The group, called a Project Advisory Committee, was formed to address traffic flow concerns along U.S. 521, as well as to look at economic development in the area.

Made up of several local officials, the committee includes representatives from Lancaster County Council, Lancaster County Water and Sewer District, Lancaster County School District, the University of South Carolina at Lancaster and Indian Land Action Council.

Wendy Bell, a planner with the Catawba Regional Council of Governments, is helping coordinate the project.

The project will look at U.S. 521 starting at the city of Lancaster and continuing north.

It will also focus on S.C. 9 Bypass, which intersects the highway, and follow it west toward the Chester County line.

The study is funded by a rural infrastructure fund available through the S.C. Department of Commerce.

Bell said the county enlisted the Catawba Regional’s services to help provide technical assistance and guidance throughout the process.

“We’re working to develop a transportation and land-use   plan for both the Highway 521 and (S.C. Bypass) 9 corridors,” Bell said. “We’ll also look at the economic development potential, especially near the airport and in the southern portion of the county.”

The committee met for the first time at the end of June, and plans monthly meetings for the next five months.

The study could be complete by early 2010.

County Councilman Larry McCullough, whose district includes the northernmost portion of U.S. 521, said the committee recently completed a search for a vendor to help complete the study.

The committee chose Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., a consulting service firm that has done work on several infrastructure projects throughout the Carolinas.

Aside from the two highways, McCullough said the study will also take into account a 50-yard area on both sides of the roads.

“We’ll look at the economic impact of what’s going on there, the development aspects and traffic flow,” he said.

McCullough also hopes the committee will look into the issues of signage and billboards in the area, as well as a unique problem associated with Indian Land’s Sun City Carolina Lakes development – golf carts.

The community, marketed toward active seniors, has a high usage of golf carts, which residents use to travel to nearby businesses and restaurants.

McCullough said there are almost 500 carts at Sun City now, which could double or triple within the next few years as the community grows.

“We want to accommodate the golf carts,  but how can that be done?” McCullough said. “All along 521 there’s a substantial amount of bicyclers too, sometimes you’ll see 20 or 30 at a time. How can that be accommodated? Can you make an alternate transportation lane for golf carts, bicyclers and pedestrians? We’ll have experts looking at that.”

With the county growing rapidly, McCullough is looking forward to getting this planning under way.

“I’m excited about it. It’s a great, great opportunity to get some good stuff going and get future planning done for Lancaster County,” he said.

Bell said there will be plenty of chances for the public to get involved in the project as well.

She has been conducting one-on-one interviews with residential and commercial real estate owners to get their perspectives on the project. She’s also talked with different groups, such as the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce.

The Catawba Regional Council of Governments also plans to hold several in-depth public meetings to discuss ideas and receive feedback on corridor designs.

“There’s going to be a lot of opportunities for public involvement,” Bell said.

Contact reporter  Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416