Study explores road extension impact

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Dave Lyle extension would connect I-77 in Rock Hill to U.S. 521

By Jesef Williams

ROCK HILL – More than 58,000 new residents and $427 million in additional revenue.  
The numbers jump off the page as economists discuss the projected impact of extending Dave Lyle Boulevard from Rock Hill into Lancaster County.
A special presentation on the matter was held Thursday, Jan. 10, at Winthrop University. Economists at the university’s College of Business Administration unveiled statistics from their study analyzing how the eastward extension of Dave Lyle would greatly affect retail in the region.
The projected extension would pick up from where the road ends in Rock Hill (near the Galleria shopping mall). It would travel eastward, north of the Catawba Indian reservation, over the Catawba River and into Lancaster County.
The endpoint would run into Charlotte Highway (U.S. 521) at the S.C. 75 intersection en route to Waxhaw.
By 2020, if the nine-mile extension was complete, the area would see an increase of 58,681 residents, 17,702 households, $1.2 billion in aggregate income, $427 million in retail sales potential, 740 employers and daytime 5,760 employees, according to the study.
“The findings of this study concludes that connecting Highway 521 and I-77 will improve the retail competitiveness and retention for existing businesses on both sides of the river and improve the region’s prospects for attracting potential employers and residents,” the study read.
The economists touched on the impact on education, as public schools are funded largely though local tax dollars.
“Educational quality and even the perception of adequate education and training resources for workforce training is absolutely a determining factor for attracting and retaining employers, affluent and family-oriented residents,” the study read.
In summary, the economists said the following:
“York County and Lancaster County have the opportunity to realize the potential benefits of the Dave Lyle Boulevard extension to increase sales tax revenue by making the area more conveniently accessible to residents and businesses.”
Where’s the money?
Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis, who attended Thursday’s presentation, believes the extension of Dave Lyle Boulevard would help alleviate traffic congestion, particularly in Lancaster County’s Panhandle.
Looking at the numbers, though, Willis says the study “may be a little ambitious” in its revenue projections.
Willis is also critical of how the presentation didn’t mention funding to build the road, which he sees as the main factor that has kept the project from happening. The cost was estimated at $165 million in 2009.
Willis said locals have been discussing the extension of Dave Lyle for nearly 15 years – around the time when York County’s first Pennies for Progress road-funding initiative came into play.
Ultimately, it’s believed the S.C. Department of Transportation will have to fund the project. Willis, though, isn’t holding his breath on that, given that the DOT seems to focus more on interstate highway work, he said.
“It was certainly a useful study,” Willis said about Thursday’s presentation. “But the question is how we’re going to pay for this thing. That wasn’t addressed.”