Northeast Richland drivers finding smoother commutes at major intersection

Summit Parkway and Summit Ridge Drive upgraded though Penny Fund

summit pkwy 1Columbia Northeast drivers who get delayed in traffic at the Summit Parkway and Summit Ridge Drive intersection may not smile about it, but at least they’re not snarling as fiercely as they did four months ago.In fact, some may be smiling.

While traffic is still heavy at the busy intersection – especially on weekday mornings – it’s much more manageable thanks to improvements made with the Richland County Transportation Penny Fund.

The improvements include a dedicated right turn lane from Summit Parkway onto Summit Ridge and a dual left turn lane from Summit Ridge onto Summit Parkway.
“I’m really pleased with the changes at that intersection,” said Stephanie Lawrence, who regularly drives through the intersection to take her kids to school. “It used to get backed up so terribly because there was not a turning lane.”
Traffic flows much more smoothly now, Lawrence said, saving drivers like her time and aggravation.

“Now, even if you get held up you can see the traffic moving,” Lawrence said “Before it was a stand-still.”

The intersection improvements were necessary because, without proper turn lanes, the intersection couldn’t handle the thousands of cars using it daily. According to a 2014 daily traffic count:
•       Summit Parkway had approximately 17,000 vehicles
•       Summit Ridge Drive had approximately 14,500 vehicles
•       Summit Ridge Drive had approximately 650 vehicles turning left and 350 vehicles turning right onto Summit Parkway between 7-9 a.m.
•         Approximately 500 vehicles turned right from Summit Parkway onto Summit Ridge.

Much of the morning traffic at the intersection stems from nearby schools. Buses, parents and students drive through the intersection on the way to Ridge View High, Summit Parkway Middle and Rice Creek and Bridge Creek Elementary schools.
“We are now able to get buses in and out of traffic much more quickly,” said Jack Carter, chief operations officer of Richland District 2. “They get (to the schools) much more smoothly.

Congestion was common at the intersection before the upgrades, especially during the morning peak hours from 7 to 9 a.m. The overall vehicle delay at the intersection was 72 seconds per vehicle; however, the specific left turn delay from Summit Ridge Drive onto Summit Parkway was nearly four minutes.

Projections for 2017 show an overall vehicle delay of approximately 13 seconds and the left turn delay from Summit Ridge Drive onto Summit Parkway approximately 21 seconds.

Looking more into the future, projections for 2037 show an overall delay of 15 seconds and the left turn delay as 25 seconds.

The intersection work is one of six similar projects across the county that have been awarded to C.R. Jackson, Inc. at a total cost of $9 million. All six projects are scheduled to be completed within 18 months.

Three other northeast Richland intersection improvements included in that contract are Clemson Road at North Springs and Rhame roads; Farrow Road at Coogler and Steeple Ridge roads; and North Springs Road at Risdon Way and Summit Parkway.

The Richland County Transportation Penny Tax program was approved by voters in November 2012 and includes projects throughout Richland County during a 22-year period or until $1.07 billion in sales tax revenue is collected, whichever occurs first. The program includes such projects as road widenings, intersection improvements, sidewalks, bikeways, dirt road paving and greenways.