If ever there was a good news, bad news scenario for Columbia County motorists, it's the recent decision to delay widening Flowing Wells Road in favor of extending William Few Parkway.
It's difficult to disagree entirely with the decision; after all, half of the money for the William Few project is coming from state funds that would have instead been spent on a far-less-needed project in Richmond County.
That part of the money is clearly being put to better use. But the other half of the money is tougher. Pulling $5.5 million away from Flowing Wells not only delays a long-overdue project and consigns motorists to continued, daily gridlock -- it also leaves in limbo the dozens of property owners along the road who have been patiently waiting for the project to move forward.
Undoubtedly, the William Few extension is justified. The parkway currently dead-ends at the access roads that head into the Greenbrier schools complex, several new housing developments and the soon-to-open Champions Retreat golf club.
The schools throw the biggest traffic burden on the area, with bumper-to-bumper traffic twice a day along the access roads, on William Few and along Washington Road. The William Few extension would empty the parkway onto Hardy-McManus Road, providing a relief valve for many of those beleaguered motorists.
Still, even after the William Few extension, there will continue to be just one way in, and one way out, of the school complex, the neighborhoods and the golf club; motorists still have just one road to get them back to William Few.
A far greater benefit will come when the private developers of the project build a long-anticipated second access road into the site. Preliminary plans call for another road to link the rear of the school complex to Washington Road at Old Washington Road, vastly improving access to the entire development.
Unfortunately, that project will only move at the speed the private owners deem necessary. The county is unlikely to step in, condemn the property and build a road that most taxpayers would see as a direct benefit to one major development.
Yet isn't that exactly what the William Few project represents? Sure, it will help relieve terrible traffic congestion, but it will do so largely for the benefit of Greenbrier-area developers who will more easily sell houses when the opening and closing of the school day doesn't turn the streets into a slow-moving parking lot.
Too bad those developers aren't offering to kick in a few bucks from each new home to take care of building their new road.
Flowing Wells doesn't benefit any developers, and that's a big part of why it's being sent to the back burner. All the land in that area is long since occupied, so no one is waiting to make money off new construction that such traffic improvements would benefit.
Instead, its advocates are just a bunch of motorists and taxpayers who are already here, and who will just have to keep waiting for Flowing Wells relief, while county leaders' priorities once again shift elsewhere.
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