If you think the rush-hour commute from West Ashley to downtown is a pain now, just give it a couple years.
This week Charleston County Council approved a plan — at the city's request — to close one lane of the T. Allen Legare Bridge to cars. Eventually it will be reserved exclusively for walkers and bikers.
That's nice, but in the past six years traffic on the Ashley River bridges — which get most of the traffic from Highways 17 and 61, as well as Folly Road — has increased from 41,000 cars daily to a whopping 56,400. And now they want to take away 25 percent of our inbound lanes?
“We are taking transportation money — which we are supposed to use to make traffic better — and we're going to make it more difficult for people to drive downtown, period,” says County Councilman Herb Sass, who voted against this disaster.
Funny thing is, these guys actually call this project part of “Roadwise.”
Not on the honor roll
In case county officials haven't noticed, it's getting to be a little bit like Florida around here.
Highway 17 is often a parking lot, even in the middle of the day. And it doesn't take a degree in traffic engineering to realize losing lanes isn't going to help that.
Sass says the Ashley River bridges already have a “C” level of service and this will downgrade that to a “D.”
That's no way to get into college, and it's no way to get into town.
What's worse, the $2 million for this bike lane may be money down the drain — because the state may take the lane back. Local officials obviously forgot to mention that 18 months ago, S.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge told local officials that a bike lane on the Ashley River bridge “does not appear to be feasible as a permanent solution due to traffic growth.”
St. Onge said it's only going to get worse with “continued growth in the West Ashley area.” You mean like that new 300-unit apartment complex they are going to stick on the site of Turky's and the old Gold's Gym?
“Traffic is only going to increase, it's not going down,” Sass says.
No, it's just going to go slower.
Boldly go away
Now, the city will tell you that more people will bike to work when there is a safe route into downtown, and that will help traffic.
Yeah, some folks might bike in — but not 14,000 of them. That's the load for each lane in a given day.
Biking to work sounds all romantic until you have to sit next to someone who rode in six miles on an August morning. Lucky for the rest of us, not many people will do that.
Truth be told, this is mainly for pleasing biking. And that's great — but the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Don't they watch “Star Trek” at County Council?
Sass notes that the Ravenel Bridge's bike lane is so popular that we will never build another bridge without one. Which is smart. And as Prentiss Findlay reported Thursday, the Ashley bridges aren't in great shape. So when they get replaced, add a bike lane.
Until then, the county needs to pedal its traffic disasters somewhere else.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com