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Wreck, red light concern with I-77, Gold Hill Road SC work

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A new approach to traffic was designed to make it smoother to merge on to, off of and around the interchange at I-77 and Gold Hill Road.

It hasn’t happened.

Area transportation officials met Friday for updates on a host of large interchange, road widening and other traffic projects in the Rock Hill, Fort Mill and surrounding areas. Talk converged at I-77 and Gold Hill where a diverging diamond pattern is in place. The area has seen an uptick in wrecks, leaders agree.

”We have seen there are several red light runners that go through the signal and do not stop on red,” said Vic Edwards with the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

There have been temporary traffic signals in place for more than a month. Timing and phasing of the traffic lights were adjusted. Mast arms are now going up.

Traffic closed there for a weekend in September and reopened with the new diverging diamond alignment. The full interchange improvement, though, isn’t complete.

”What we have out there now is not the final product,” Edwards said.

When the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study policy committee met Friday, Edwards said just the night prior there were new measures put in place to make sure traffic signals operate correctly. Message boards will be moved to allow better visibility. Yet, he said, part of the issue lies with drivers.

”If people continue to run the signal, if they have a red light and they refuse to stop, there will continue to be problems,” Edwards said.

There was discussion by elected and transportation officials to add more law enforcement presence. Fort Mill Mayor Guynn Savage said she travels the intersection daily to and from work.

”It is not just a light and signal issue,” she said. “It is an issue that the lines, the signals, the markings are all difficult to see.”

Construction barrels and people working at the intersection make lane recognition difficult.

”There are accidents there frequently, and it’s not just from people running red lights,” Savage said.

David Hooper, RFATS administrator, said he’s spoken to people in the area with similar concerns about “ghost lanes” as they switch sides of the road and aren’t sure how to proceed.

“It makes it a little bit harder to adjust in real time,” Hooper said.

A diverging diamond works by swapping traffic to the opposite side of the road, then back, at respective traffic signals. The idea is drivers can turn right onto or off of the interstate when they are on the right side and turn left when they are switched over to the left side.

For years the diverging diamond at I-77 and Gold Hill was billed as the first of its kind in South Carolina. Another was contemplated at I-77 and S.C. 160, though SCDOT went with an alternate design there.

There are double diverging diamond patterns shown as a placeholder for I-77 at both Cherry and Celanese roads in Rock Hill. A final design hasn’t been selected.

If the diverging diamonds are placed in those sites, drivers will get an acclimation period.

“It takes people time to adjust,” Hooper said.

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John Marks graduated from Furman University in 2004 and joined the Herald in 2005. He covers community growth, municipalities, transportation and education mainly in York County and Lancaster County. The Fort Mill native earned dozens of South Carolina Press Association awards and multiple McClatchy President’s Awards for news coverage in Fort Mill and Lake Wylie.
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