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The route and the road diet

Part Three: The road from here

Posted: August 6, 2018 4:59 p.m.
Updated: August 7, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Photo provided by SCDOT/

A colored overlay of a Google Earth image of what will be the new intersection of York and Rippondon streets for an enforceable truck route around downtown Camden. Contractors are extending the left curve of York Street by the old Miller Lumber site so that it meets a new, curved extension of Rippondon Street. Midway through the curve, truckers could either continue on Rippondon up to DeKalb Street or turn right on to what is being called the York Street Connector to resume a heading toward S.C. 34 on East York Street. Residents could also use the connector to reach what will become Rippondon Court -- a cul-de-sac that will serve several homes there.

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During the last week, a patching and resurfacing project on a long stretch of Broad Street added to traffic complications in and around downtown Camden as the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) also continued work on three segments of an enforceable truck route.

Years ago, SCDOT put up signs marking Ehrenclou Drive, Chesnut Ferry Road Extension, Springdale Drive, Boykin Road and portions of York, Mill and DeKalb streets as a truck route at the city of Camden’s request. But the agency did not make the truck route an official one and, therefore, local authorities could not ticket drivers of heavy trucks for cutting through town, especially on Broad Street.

Starting in 2008, the city -- with the help of various consultants -- came up with a plan to put Broad Street between DeKalb and York streets on a “road diet.” The concept: get heavy trucks off that section of Broad Street by slimming down from two lanes of traffic in each direction to one lane in each direction, redesigning the Broad/DeKalb intersection and creating a more walkable downtown shopping district.

The one requirement: create the SCDOT-approved and police-enforceable truck route.

Delays of various sorts kept the truck route project from starting out in 2014 as originally scheduled to 2016, with further delays on the northwestern segment (also known as Segment 1) along Springdale Drive and Boykin Road due to rights-of-way issues.

There have also been delays on Segments 2 and 3, which deal with changes to Ehrenclou Drive, Chesnut Ferry Extension and York Street, and York and Rippondon streets, respectively.

Segments 1 and 2

SCDOT’s Sumter office is overseeing work on segments 1 and 2.

Will Fulton, SCDOT’s resident construction engineer for Kershaw, Lee and Sumter counties, said in an email Friday that crews are currently working on the two bridges in Segment 2 that are being replaced on Chesnut Ferry Extension and Old River Road. He said they are also working on “the roadway portion on Ehrenclou Drive with the widening and adding of sidewalks and curb in the areas of the school.”

Fulton said the current completion date for the project is Nov. 30, but that SCDOT is in talks with the contractor to push the completion date much further back due to what he said were “unforeseen utility conflicts.”

“Sewer lines were discovered that were in conflict with the new bridge locations,” Fulton explained. “The sewer contractor has installed the new lines and the bridge construction has resumed. The revised completion date has not been agreed upon, but they are working diligently to finish as soon as possible. We conservatively figure the new date will be sometime in summer or fall of 2019.”

When that segment is completed, however, Ehrenclou Drive will be directly connected to Chesnut Ferry Extension.

“That traffic will flow straight through from (U.S. routes) 521 to 1. All other roads will intersect to the new alignment of that road,” Fulton said.

He said Bramblewood Plantation Road -- which leads to parking for the Camden High School athletic complex, as well as the Kershaw County Detention Center and city of Camden wastewater treatment plant -- will cut straight across from York Street and River Road to line up on either side of the new alignment.

In regard to Segment 1 on Boykin Road, Fulton said the contractor is working to widen the area between Hwy. 97 (Liberty Hill Road) and U.S. 521 North.

“This area will include two travel lanes with a center turn lane (and) will also receive new sidewalks on both sides of the road,” Fulton said. “The current completion date for this project is Sept. 30.”

As for the rights-of-way delays on this segment, Fulton said SCDOT documents had showed that the agency owned the particular rights-of-way, but the courts said the documents hadn’t been filed.

“So, SCDOT had to acquire the rights-of-way needed to build this project. This project took approximately a year to complete; the contractor was in an out of the project during this time to maintain traffic and erosion control items,” Fulton said.

He said once the issues were resolved, the contractor remobilized and “is working diligently to finish by the revised completion date” of Sept. 30.

“They would leave because they couldn’t work on any actual production items,” Fulton said of contractors waiting for SCDOT to resolve the rights-of -way issues. “We finally got the issues resolved and the contractor came back to work in May and has been assiduously working on the (U.S. 521 North) end of the project, as that was the portion that was in dispute.”

Fulton said crews have now relocated water and sewer lines and are now in the process of installing drainage structures in the area.

“With good weather, the revised completion of September 30 is attainable,” he said.

Segment 3

While SCDOT’s Sumter office is overseeing work on segments 1 and 2 of the truck route, the Columbia office is overseeing work on Segment 3 along York and Rippondon streets.

“That was due to management of district resources,” Michael Buck, an assistant resident construction engineer working out of Columbia, said.

Buck said more than 50 percent of Segment 3 work is done, which is officially scheduled to be completed on November 30.

“I’m still hoping that’s feasible, but it doesn’t look 100 percent likely,” Buck said. “I’d say more realistically by the end of the year -- December would be a good buffer.”

Buck said there were some utility-related issues on Segment 3 that held some of the work up.

In the most notable case, a resident living at the intersection of York and Mill streets disputed SCDOT’s claim to an easement, but later settled, allowing the agency to acquire a permanent 45-foot easement along with a temporary easement for an additional 5 feet so it could work on the project.

Buck said other utility issues involved TruVista and AT&T, but that SCDOT was able to work around them.

Like Segment 2, the Segment 3 work involves redesigning an intersection. Currently, Rippondon Street dead-ends into York Street just past the old Wm. T. Miller Lumber Co. site. At that point, York Street officially becomes East York Street.

Up until now, York Street sharply curved left around the west side of the lumber site before quickly turning right again to go straight to, and then past, where it meets Rippondon’s southern end to become East York Street. It then crosses Little Pine Tree Creek, goes past the ends of Henry Street, Lakeshore Drive and Pitts Street, and then crosses Big Pine Tree Creek before ending at S.C. 34 (Bishopville Highway).

Buck said when Segment 3 is finished, things will be very different -- and a bit complex at first glance.

While York Street between Broad and Mill streets is being widened and, possibly, divided, changes beyond Mill Street will create not only a new intersection, but three new streets.

“All the cut work is done,” Buck said, referring to creating the beds of the new roadways, “and we’ll be following with asphalt soon.”

According to an overlay Google Earth image Buck provided, the new construction forms a double intersection as a large triangle. Here’s how things will work:

Someone driving east on York Street would cross Mill Street and then have several choices. They could stay left and continue on to the new portion of Rippondon Street to go up to East DeKalb Street. They could, instead, turn right and end up on what will become York Court, in front of Miller Lumber, using it to cross what will be called the York Street Connector and on to Rippondon Court -- a small portion of lower Rippondon Street that will be turned into a cul-de-sac on its north end. Drivers could also stay left for a just a moment and then turn right onto the connector in order to reach East York Street and continue on to S.C. 34.

Buck said people who end up on York Court will be able to turn left on the connector, go straight on to Rippondon, or turn right on to East York Street. However, people driving west on York Court will not be allowed to turn left on to York Street itself due to sight distance concerns.

Meanwhile, someone driving south on Rippondon Street will also have several choices to make, although no matter what they decide, the first thing that will happen is that the road will curve right to join York Street. At the T-intersection in the middle of the curve, they could turn left on to the York Street Connector, which they could then use to turn left again on to Rippondon Court, turn right onto York Court, or continue straight onto East York Street toward S.C. 34. Otherwise, simply staying on the road will put them on York Street, heading toward Broad Street.

Finally, someone driving on East York Street from S.C. 34 would have to use the connector to turn on to either Rippondon or York courts. Otherwise, they would continue straight for a moment, reaching the T-intersection and turn either left or right to continue on their way.

Buck said new traffic lights will be installed at the intersection of East DeKalb and Rippondon streets, while the 4-way stop configuration at Mill and York streets will continue to be used. However, he said there will be no traffic lights at the new York/Rippondon interchange.

“Those will all be stop sign conditions,” Buck said.

The road diet

The look ahead to the road diet is a bit fuzzier at this point.

Buck said SCDOT has nothing to do right now with the Broad Street road diet, but acknowledged that the agency would become involved with the project if and when it begins. For the moment, that leaves things in the hands of the city of Camden and the Santee-Lynches Council of Governments COG, which administrates federal and state funding for such projects.

So far, all such funding has gone to planning and designing the project; nothing has been set aside yet for construction.

“The road diet will be considered in the future, depending on federal funding and the enforceable truck route,” Camden City Manager Mel Pearson said in a July 31 email.

The last official mention of the road diet actually came in a December 2017 update to the Kershaw County Comprehensive Plan. In Chapter 8 of that document, the county notes that the road diet will reduce travel lanes on the affected portion of Broad Street “from four 11-foot lanes to two 12-foot lanes with parking on both sides of the street. Sidewalk widths will be expanded and medians provided in some locations, while streetscape and landscape design will be incorporated to encourage pedestrian and street-level retail activity.”

The document noted that funding for the road diet had not been secured.

Prior to that, in a May 2016 update to its 2014-2019 Transportation Improvement Program documentation, the S-LCOG still had the Broad Street Road Diet listed as only having received a $456,000 federal TIGER II grant with $114,000 in matching funds for planning purposes in 2013. A chart in the document listed nothing for any fiscal years beyond that.

At the moment, that means that the vision for the road diet is the same as it was in 2012, as described in the 2017 update to the county’s comprehensive plan. The best look at how the road diet might appear showed up in the form of a computer generated video the city uploaded to YouTube in July 2012.

That animation followed a small white car up Broad Street from York Street as it passed by various examples of mostly side-street along with a few angle-in parking spaces, new medians and expanded sidewalks with flowering plants and trees, brick-paved mid-block and intersection crosswalks, and a complete redesign of the Broad Street approaches to its intersection with DeKalb Street.

There, the video turns around to an aerial shot from the north to show Broad Street open back up to multiple lanes: Dedicated left- and right-turn lanes and middle “through” lane. Unlike the way the intersection is configured now, the left-turn lanes would exactly face each other, which planners said would make it safer for drivers turning left from either direction to turn at the same time.

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