What’s being done to improve traffic, safety on busy stretch of York County road

YORK COUNTY, S.C. — Drivers are fed up with a 3-mile stretch of Highway 49 in York County.

“Death Valley” and “Fury Road” are just two of the nicknames people have given a section of Highway 49 where more than 100 crashes happen each year.

Traffic Team 9′s Mark Taylor investigated the high number of crashes there and what’s being done to fix it.

According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, there have been over 900 crashes on Highway 49 from Highway 557 to the Buster Boyd Bridge between 2018 and 2023.

For context, the North Carolina Department of Transportation says there were only 283 crashes on Highway 49 in Mecklenburg County from the state line to Shopton Road during that same period, which is also approximately three miles long.

Like many of Charlotte’s suburbs, Lake Wylie has a lot to offer such as good schools and relatively low taxes. It’s also a quick drive to Charlotte when there are no crashes on the only major roadway over the lake in the area. But when there is a crash along the stretch of Highway 49 that carries more than 38,000 daily drivers, there are not many options to get around it.

That’s where the Catawba Crossings project comes in. It’s a proposed new road that would connect southeastern Gaston County to Steele Creek giving another route over the lake. The project has been decades in the making.

The South Carolina 49 Corridor Study conducted in 2021 looked at even more ways to help fix traffic issues, including building collector roads.

There are also smart signals, which can automatically adjust in real-time based on flows, and access management.

“A good way to think of this is where people would turn left or right where they want, but then they would put in a concrete island that routes them where they are supposed to go … removing driver uncertainty about what the proper route is and who has the right of way,” explained transportation planner David Hooper.

Jerry Simonetti is a partner at Lily’s Bistro -- a staple in Lake Wylie that’s been around long enough to see the traffic get worse.

He’s conflicted about the growth around the lake. While it plays a big role in the daily traffic troubles, “as a business owner there’s not too many people. We’ll take more,” he said.

Hooper says multiple locations have been placed on a working shortlist for possible upgrades, specifically in the Mill Pond - Evergreen area of Highway 49.

They’re looking into a potential new connecting road between Bonum and Montgomery Roads as well as improvement work along Blucher Circle.

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