Blythewood residents have their say on planned highway widening

Richland Penny Program would expand Blythewood Road

Blythewood residents got a first look at plans to widen a major road in their community recently and had the opportunity to share their opinions about the project.

2016-10-20-04-53-59Dozens of residents flocked to the public input meeting at Muller Road Middle School, where three options for widening Blythewood Road were presented on Thursday, Oct. 20.
The Richland County Transportation Penny Tax project would widen Blythewood Road to three lanes between Muller and Syrup Mill roads, and to five lanes between Syrup Mill Road and I-77. Bicycle and pedestrian lanes would be added. The project includes a roundabout near the Cobblestone Park neighborhood.

“This (meeting) is very casual, the way the first one should be,” Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross said. “It looks like everyone is asking questions, which is what we want. We’re here to hear what people really do want.”

The public hearing marked the first step in the project, which is scheduled to begin construction in 2019.

“It’s always fun when we get to the point where we can show some options to the public,” said Rob Perry, Richland County’s transportation director. “That’s what this is all about. “In six to nine months, we’ll come back with a second meeting, with options based on what we hear tonight.”
The three options for widening the road were displayed throughout the initial two-hour open house with Richland Penny Program representatives standing by to explain the proposals and answer questions. Residents were asked to share their thoughts on comment forms.

“I like the set up because we can go around and ask questions,” said Robin Lupia, a Cobblestone Park resident. “I like the different ideas – but there is one I like the best.”

Joe Lucia liked having the project engineers there and appreciated that they took his concerns about the proposed roundabout seriously.2016-10-20-05-11-52

Babs Kesser, also of Cobblestone Park, agreed. “I think any of the options are fine, as far as the sidewalks go,” she said. “It’s nice to talk to folks who are not only giving information but who are asking our opinion.”

Ed Garrison, a real estate broker and chairman of the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce, was involved with the original master plan for Blythewood.

“This is one of those milestones you look forward to and hope it happens yesterday,” Garrison said. “You’re not going to make everyone happy, but this is a good plan and a good concept.”

Bill Wiseman, a member of the Transportation Penny Advisory Committee (TPAC) appreciated the turnout and interest.

“We’re excited about working out here, and anxious to get the work started, and finished,” Wiseman said.

An avid cyclist, Wiseman appreciates the proposed designated bicycle lanes. “Any time we can separate vehicle traffic from bikes and walkers, it’s a safer solution.”

David Beaty, an engineer with the project, was also pleased with the response at the meeting and heard a lot of support for the pedestrian and bike accommodations.

“There is a lot of interest and support for road improvements in the town of Blythewood,” Beaty says. “This is part of the public involvement process . . . and we will continue to receive public input.”

The Blythewood Road widening is among millions of dollars in transportation and commuter improvement projects made possible through the Richland County Transportation Penny Tax program approved by voters in November 2012.

The program includes such projects as road widenings, intersection improvements, sidewalks, bikeways, dirt road paving and greenways throughout Richland County during a 22-year period or until $1.07 billion in sales tax revenue is collected.