When is road rage justified? When the road is Harbor View and the hard-fought and long-agreed-upon plan to improve it is dealt an 11th-hour blow.
At its meeting today, Charleston County Council’s Finance Committee will consider yet another new plan for the much-debated road-widening project. Members have been told this is the final plan — the S.C. Department of Transportation has spoken.
But members should not merely accept that dictum. As weary as they are of the topic, which has been debated since 2004 when voters approved transportation funding, including improvements to Harbor View Road, the board would make a mistake if it chooses a short cut for the purpose of expediency.
After all, people thought the process had reached a dead end years ago, and then Council member Joe Qualey, who represents James Island, took it on. He worked with disparate factions, County Council and the city of James Island to come up with a plan that was acceptable to everyone. Council supported it unanimously.
It called for narrowing the road’s proposed footprint from 69 feet to 61 feet and adding a sidewalk on only one side of Harbor View. It had bicycle lanes on the road, and it lowered the speed limit from 40 to 35 miles per hour.
When today’s committee agenda was posted, Mr. Qualey, Council and the James Islanders who had forged the compromise were stunned. Council is being asked to approve a different plan with sidewalks on both sides of the road. The speed limit would be 40 mph.
All this goes against the neighborhoods’ wishes.
Despite the through traffic it bears, Harbor View is in a residential area. It would be a pity for residents to be forced to accept a plan that is contrary to what they want — and what Council agreed to.
DOT indicates that it would be unsafe to have a sidewalk on only one side of the road because pedestrians would try to cross the road mid-block to use it and risk being struck by a car.
Of course, the neighbors want the road to be safe for pedestrians. Council should determine whether there might be yet another solution before voting.
Should Council decide to delay voting on Harbor View, it doesn’t have to sit on its collective hands. A project to improve the juncture of Camp and Folly roads would improve traffic on James Island, and it is not mired in controversy.
Trees have been saved and necessary property has been purchased. Why not begin there?
If Council concludes definitively that the Harbor View Plan is engraved in stone, at least it is more suitable to the neighbors than what was first presented.
But as long as there is any possibility of arriving at the best plan instead of a better plan, Council should hold out for it.
It’s worth some more time and effort to avoid costly mistakes that will last long into the future.