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1st section of Fort Mill Southern Bypass opens

The first leg of what has long been known as the Fort Mill Southern Bypass – a project aimed at reducing traffic through downtown Fort Mill – opened Wednesday.

The 2.2-mile stretch of what is officially called the Fort Mill Parkway connects Banks Street near its intersection with Brickyard Road to North Doby’s Bridge Road – also a new name – at Holbrook Road. Just minutes after barriers were removed at around 11 a.m., cars and trucks that otherwise might have gone through downtown tried out the new road, which runs past Banks Trail Middle School.

“One of the benefits we should see is less traffic on Fairway Drive,” said Phil Leazer, project engineer with Pennies for Progress, the York County road-building program that is financed by a penny on the countywide sales tax.

Residents of that narrow road that winds past the Fort Mill Golf Course have long complained about drivers using it as a short-cut. It’s not unusual to see drivers’ going too fast on Fairway Drive and landing in residents’ yards.

About 20,000 cars are expected to use this phase of the Fort Mill Parkway each day, Leazer said. Once completed, the road will cover 4.2 miles and connect to Springfield Parkway near S.C. 160 East. Springfield Parkway recently was extended as part of an earlier Pennies for Progress project called the Fort Mill Northern Bypass.

The total cost of the Southern Bypass is projected to be $53 million. The project hit a snag in 2012 when a bridge contractor noticed a surveying error that caused two of four bridge supports to be built too high. The contractor suspended work until a plan was in place to tear down the supports and rebuild them at the correct height.

The final phase of the project is expected to be completed in 2016, Leazer said. Originally, officials had hoped to have it done in 2015, but construction has been delayed by wet weather.

“That really set us back,” Leazer said.

The Pennies for Progress program was first approved by county voters in 1997 and has since been renewed in referendums held in 2003 and 2011.