BALOG COLUMN: Group pushes for green light on new signal
It sounds like a simple request, asking for a traffic signal at South Grimball and Folly roads.
Except this request has been denied twice already.
Neighbors and parents are hoping the third time will be the charm.
A planned unit development being considered at the southeastern corner of that intersection would add 294 multifamily units on about 30 acres bounded by Grimball Road Extension, Folly Road, the Ocean Neighbors neighborhood and Old Military Road. It also would include retail, green space and a sidewalk/trail.
Support for the development, and the stoplight, is coming from what might seem to be an unlikely place: a concerned citizens group called Save Harbor View Road.
The group has branched out (no pun intended) from its original mission to save the trees along Harbor View, working proactively with developers and municipal leaders to try to ensure future development plans meet livability standards.
Overall, according to group organizer Susan Milliken, there's been great cooperation between the developer for the Cooper James PUD and the group in terms of tree preservation and other areas.
“This could be a wonderful thing for the community,” said Milliken.
The developers' plan has been mostly well received, except for concerns that kids who wind up living there will try to make their way across Folly Road — with potentially disastrous results.
A brief history
Back in 2007, after James Island Elementary had been open for four years, parents requested a traffic signal at this same intersection, because getting onto Folly Road from South Grimball requires some patience and some dexterous use of the center turn lane.
The state Department of Transportation conducted a traffic study, and found there wasn't enough traffic, except between 7 and 9 a.m., to meet the requirements for a stoplight.
At the time, there was a proposed development called Grimball Farms that would have added about 230 single-family homes to that area.
But the financing didn't quite work out, a common problem when the housing bubble burst.
Fast forward to 2012. Traffic on Folly hasn't exactly gotten lighter.
But a July 2012 traffic study concluded the same thing: not enough traffic, not right now.
It also suggested drivers use the stoplight at Fort Johnson and Folly, about 1.5 miles away. Sure, no problem.
Additionally, the letter accompanying the DOT study noted there hadn't been enough crashes there in the past three years (except that school bus crash in March) that could have been prevented by a light to justify installing one.
The bright spot, if there is one, is that the DOT authorized pavement marking modifications and signs to increase safety at the intersection. At least it has sent a work order to that effect to its Charleston County Maintenance office.
We shouldn't have to wait until things get worse to make safety improvements.
If the developer is willing to pay for the stoplight, then surely the cash-strapped DOT could live with that.
And so could the neighbors.
Reach Melanie Balog at email@example.com