Fairview resident Sharon Stevens and her husband, Frank Schmidt, have dreaded completion of Rollins Road for the past 15 years.
“I hoped they’d never get to it,” said Stevens, whose home is at the edge of Fairview Park at Westport Drive and the end of Rollins Road.
Despite initial objections from that couple and many of their neighbors, the city has officially begun work on a $783,000 extension of Rollins Road that will connect the Fairview neighborhood to Scott Boulevard to the west. On Sept. 8 workers began clearing a path through the northern corner of Fairview Park, where the east and west ends of Rollins Road will connect. The project will include a roundabout, exaggerated curves, speed humps and speed tables intended to calm traffic along Rollins and along Kunlun Drive in the Broadway Farms neighborhood.
Emery Sapp & Sons of Columbia will do the work, which is scheduled to be finished this winter.
The Rollins project had been on the back burner since the 1960s. Two years ago, city officials began plans to complete the connection.
Most of the money for the project will come from capital improvement sales taxes; about $30,000 will come from tax bills paid by adjacent property owners and $15,000 from money set aside for traffic calming, said Mike Symmonds of the city’s engineering division.
City planners and engineers worked closely with neighborhood associations to design the project. The goal, said Sarah Lang of the Fairview Neighborhood Association, was “how to best build a road without destroying the integrity of the neighborhood.”
Stuart King, the city’s supervising engineer on the project, said public involvement “allowed us to design a project that met the needs of the roadway and traffic situation. By involving neighbors, we were able to come up with a street that addressed their concerns.”
Because residents primarily worried about the inevitable increase in traffic that the Rollins connection will bring, the design emphasizes traffic calming to deter drivers from using the new road as a shortcut. Schmidt was particularly concerned that traffic would increase as property along Scott Boulevard became more developed.
“We’ll have to see how it plays out,” he said.
Lang, of 1012 Westport Drive, hopes the calming devices will prevent Rollins from becoming anything other than a neighborhood route.
“It’s not going to be an advantageous cut-through,” she said. “Thoroughfares like Broadway will still be the faster route.”
Planners also worried about the safety of children walking to and from Fairview Elementary School, which is a block south of Rollins. Traffic calming near the school will include a median on Rollins between Concord Street and Cambridge Drive, as well as a speed table, or elevated section of pavement, at the Westport intersection.
“One of our biggest concerns was before- and after-school hours,” Lang said. “If people started using Rollins as a big cut-through, kids could be affected.”
Perhaps the most daring of the calming devices is a roundabout that will be built into the new section of Rollins. Schmidt said three roundabouts were originally planned, but two were replaced by the speed tables to save money.
“We were told that it is equally or more effective,” Schmidt said. “We’ll have to take their word for it.”
The new stretch of Rollins will also feature exaggerated curves intended to encourage slower driving. The road will also be quite hilly, given the topography of the area.
Lang, Schmidt and King think neighbors and city officials have created the best possible plan.
“We love it,” said Steve Akins, another Fairview resident who was skeptical of the plans when they were first revealed. He soon favored them, however, when he saw the amount of neighborhood involvement in the project.
“I don’t think traffic will be a problem,” he said, though he conceded he has another reason for favoring the connection: “My parents live on the other side.”