By Elizabeth (Liz) Duda
Nov. 11, 2020 (York County, SC) York County residents can thank the Pennies for Progress program for ongoing road improvements. We all know that York County has high growth in some areas and need across all areas! Yet state, federal and local transportation funding is limited. So when state law changed in the 1990s to allow counties to use a 1% sales tax towards any capital project, York County directed all of that funding towards transportation projects. York County residents now vote every 7 years to re-approve the capital-project sales tax, and Pennies projects.
The Bike/Ped Coalition of York County welcomed Patrick Hamilton, Pennies for Projects Program Manager, to our November meeting. He described the program and its history, shared a map of Pennies projects and photos of project improvements, and responded to questions. Here is what we learned.
About the Program
Pennies for Progress is administered by the State Department of Revenue. It collects sales taxes on all goods (e.g., groceries and purchases) and services (e.g., restaurants and entertainment). In this way, funds are collected from anyone spending money in York County and not just residents. The tax expires every 7 years. Residents approved Pennies in 1997; Pennies 2 in 2003; Pennies 3 in 2011; and Pennies 4 in 2017.
A six-member citizen group chooses the projects. Three citizens are appointed by the York County council, two by Rock Hill, and one by others (based on population size). The group presents the projects to York County council in priority order – to ensure enough cash to build the top projects. Council can approve or deny, but not modify, the projects. Voters then approve the projects. Money collected must be spent on the approved projects. See the project list on the Pennies website.
Hamilton estimates that York County roadways have derived $1B worth of improvements from the Pennies 1-4 programs – which includes additional funding designated to the projects from outside sources (e.g., the federal government and State Infrastructure Bank). That is a lot! But perhaps another $1B is needed to address other needs throughout the county.
Bike/Ped Coalition meeting participants saw the project evolution in the photos that Hamilton shared: street widenings in the early years; then adding sidewalks into the plan; and later adding some multi-use paths and bike lanes. Pennies 4 then dedicated approximately $50MM to maintaining existing roads, in response to public demand: 40 roads (80 miles) will be repaved by year-end 2021.
Explaining the philosophy of prioritizing safe pedestrian and cycling access into a plan, Hamilton explained that plan developers try to match the surrounding area. For example, Cel-River had a bike lane that the project will match. And Spratt Parkway has planned commercial and residential area, for which it makes sense to have bike lanes and pedestrian accommodations. Two Pennies 3 projects specifically benefited pedestrians: University Drive at Eden Terrace; and Cherry Road in the Winthrop University area. Hamilton noted that safe bike/ped access is now “more on the radar.”
But to be sure that safe bike/ped access is in a plan, the public needs to speak up early. The Pennies 5 commission will be formed in late 2022. In 2023, they will host public meetings throughout the county. Municipality project rankings are critical, but the commission also values public input. Notably, feedback opportunities are promoted, but turnout has been low. The Bike/Ped Coalition would like to encourage future public participation, including to ensure that safe bike/ped access is included in the plans.
After the projects are approved, Pennies host public information sessions. At that time, the public can influence the design (e.g., sidewalks, bike lanes, turn lanes). Again, the Bike/Ped Coalition encourages the public to attend these meetings to share their priorities (which could include safe bike/ped access).
Learn More about Pennies for Progress
We are grateful to Patrick Hamilton for speaking with the Bike/Ped Coalition of York County on this innovative program. To learn more, see the York County Pennies for Project website at www.penniesforprogress.net. You can contact Patrick Hamilton directly at 803-818-5763.
Listen to the WRHI Radio Interview with Patrick Hamilton, Pennies for Progress, 09/28/2020.
About the Bike/Ped Coalition of York County
- Vision –An engaged York County where bicycling and walking are safe, accessible and preferred forms of transportation and recreation
- Mission – To support York County and its communities becoming more bicycle and pedestrian friendly
- Purpose – Educate, advocate, and promote the health, economic, environmental and social benefits of bicycling and walking.
- Website: https://bpcyc.org/
- Facebook page (@BPCYC): https://www.facebook.com/BPCYC/
- BPC meetings are held the first Wednesday of each month and open to the public.
- Meetings: Our next general meeting will be on Wednesday, 12/02/2020, at 9am. Our next guest speaker will be Amy Johnson Ely of Palmetto Cycling Coalition on Wed., 01/06/2021, at noon.