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I-485 Exit 4 Signs Should Say "Steele Creek Road" not "Fort Mill"

(December 29, 2017) Motorists along I-485 know that Exit 4 is where to get off to go to Fort Mill, South Carolina. At least that's what the six exit signs say: Highway 160 to Fort Mill.

But Highway 160 is not the best way to go to Fort Mill. The signs would better serve the community if they identified this as the "Steele Creek Road" exit. This is one of the main roads into the Steele Creek community, and visitors can miss the exit because they do not see the road name on the exit signs.

The NCDOT Division Traffic Engineer has said that this change seems reasonable. but since "Steele Creek Road" has more letters in it than "Fort Mill" and to meet federal requirements for the font size and placement of messages on interstate signs, the signs would need to be larger than the existing signs. That would require the fabrication of all new signs. 

NCDOT evaluated the sign structures and determined that new structures would not be needed, but most of the signs themselves would have to be changed out. The cost estimate to do this work is right around $70,000, and at the present time NCDOT does not have funds that it can commit to getting these signs changed. (If the six structures had to be replaced to support the larger signs, the cost would be upwards of $750,000 or more.)

Steele Creek's representative in the North Carolina House of Representatives, Chaz Beasley, believes the sign change is doable and has been working with legislative staff to identify funding sources.

“Given the growth of Steele Creek, it is important for travelers and locals alike to know how to reach our community. We are looking into funding sources and will continue to do the ground work to make this change happen,” Beasley said.

Exit 4 is the exit for North Carolina Highway 160, and if you take it south, it becomes South Carolina Highway 160 and eventually takes you into Fort Mill, the next incorporated place down the road.

But taking Highway 160 to Fort Mill sends you through a lot of local traffic  backups, stop lights, and narrow bottle necks. A sensible motorist heading southbound on I-485 would continue to I-77 and take that to Fort Mill (although I-77 can also back up during rush hour). A motorist heading northbound on I-485 to Fort Mill would be going the wrong direction and would need to turn around.

So "Fort Mill" on the Exit 4 signs is misleading and unnecessary. The signs should say "Steele Creek Road" to be consistent with other signs along the highway that list the street names: S Tryon St, Arrowood Rd, and West Blvd.  Addresses on Steele Creek Road are by the street name, not the highway number.

Please plan on attending the Steele Creek Residents Association Annual Meeting on February 22. Representatives of NCDOT will be present and available to answer your questions about these signs and other highway issues. See Steele Creek Residents Association Annual Meeting is February 22 for additional details.

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