County to seek federal funds for Cherokee Rd. bridge project

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By Stan Welch

A long dormant road project involving the Cherokee Road Bridge across US Hwy. 29 got at least a breath of air Monday afternoon, when the Anderson County Council finance committee approved a request to apply for a federal grant. The project was scaled down by the SCDOT last year, when District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson sought to revive it.

Several years ago, local property owners and SCDOT officials gathered at the Beaverdam Baptist Church to discuss the possibilities.

Wilson remembers the large, enthusiastic turnout. “We had a lot of right of way owners step up and offer to do their part to get this project moving, and things were looking pretty good. But we didn’t get the funding right away, and then the economy went south and our chances faded fast.”

Steve Newton, who writes grants for Anderson County, added “As a result of less funds being available, DOT went to a scoring system and that pretty much ended any chance of the state footing the bill.”

Newton recently consulted with Wilson and County Administrator Rusty Burns and was encouraged to seek official authority to pursue a federal grant under the Tiger V program. That is a highly competitive grant program; but one which places more weight on rural projects, which the Hwy. 29 project would qualify as. It is also one of a few available sources of federal funding.

As scaled down by SCDOT, the project would include raising the Cherokee Road bridge to the currently accepted height. The projected cost of that project, as of August of last year, was $1.5 million. In addition, the construction of a limited access crossover on U.S. 29 at Twenty-Nine Court would also be included.

That would involve the construction of left turn lanes from U.S. 29 and from Twenty Nine Court. The costs for the various turn lanes and medians would come to $535,000, bringing the total of the grant to be sought to $2,035,000. The amount to be sought would total $1,835,000, including a proposed match of $200,000.

Newton, addressing the finance committee, which Wilson sits on, explained that the Tiger Grant program does not require a local match of funds. “However, if we were able to offer a local match of $200,000, I think it would make us much more competitive. These fund providers like to see the local folks put a little skin in the game too.”

Committee chairman Tommy Dunn asked Newton if the match funds would be used to sweeten the pot, to which he replied, “I couldn’t say it any better than that. It will indeed sweeten the pot and hopefully make our application stand out.”

Newton made it clear to the committee that the application insured nothing. “I call the Tiger grant the Moby Dick of grants. It takes a long hard hunt to land this one, and there are no promises. However, there is simply little, if any chance of ever getting this done if we don’t try this approach.”

The committee voted unanimously to authorize the application. However, the full Council will have to approve the decision at their next meeting.