Penny Fund offers “roundabout” path to smoother travels

Work begins on traffic circle near Ascot subdivision in northwest Richland County


img_9679For the next few months, drivers will witness a dramatic transformation at the intersection of Kennerly, Coogler and Steeple Ridge roads in northwest Richland County.
And while negotiating a roundabout may be new and strange for many drivers initially, the added safety and decreased congestion are sure to earn praise when the project is completed sometime in January.

The Richland County Penny Tax Program is funding the new roundabout – or traffic circle – where Kennerly, Coogler and Steeple Ridge roads intersect at the entrance of Ascot subdivision. The ceremonial groundbreaking for the $1.4 million project was Thursday morning, Sept. 15.

“On behalf of the citizens in this area, I would like to thank the Richland County (Penny Tax Program),” said Bill Malinowski, a Richland County Council member at the groundbreaking ceremony. “We are hopeful that this will reduce the current number of accidents at this intersection.”

The new roundabout will replace the currently unsignalized intersection and allow vehicles to merge from all four directions and continue moving. The traffic circle is designed to ease congestion and make the intersection much safer.

Rob Perry, Richland County’s transportation director, is confident it will.“It will definitely increase safety,” Perry said.

The federal government is actively encouraging state and local governments to build roundabouts when possible. South Carolina currently has about 30 traffic circles statewide.

“This intersection needs one,” said Rep. Nathan Ballentine, who represents Richland County in the South Carolina House of Representatives. “For years this has been one of the most dangerous intersections in our communities. “While nothing prevents accidents more than driver awareness and caution, these improvements will provide additional safety measures that will ultimately save lives”

The intersection is one of three entrances to the Ascot neighborhood and is near River Springs Elementary School.

Navigating through a construction zone is bound to cause some aggravation in the next few months, but it’s a welcomed aggravation for drivers who regularly travel the intersection.

“We think it’s great,” said Rick Schmiedeker, an Ascot resident and neighborhood board member. “The biggest problem we’ve had, aside from getting in and out of the neighborhood, is with speeders. This will slow drivers down.”

Ascot residents are being encouraged to use the other two entrances to the neighborhood – Laurent Way at Kennerly Road or Steeple Ridge Road at Hollingshed Road – while the work is completed.

“The board has put out emails telling everyone what to expect,” said Allen Meyer, an Ascot resident and board member.
Motorists will experience some road closures and detours while the work is ongoing and are urged to use caution during the construction. Steeple Ridge Road will be closed at Kennerly Road for several weeks. The public will be notified prior to the Steeple Ridge Road closure and drivers are encouraged to use alternative routes when possible.

The Kennerly Road and Coogler Road/Steeple Ridge Road roundabout is among millions of dollars in transportation and commuter improvement projects made possible through the Richland County Transportation Penny Tax program.

The Penny 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.