Almost any day on upper King Street near where I-26 crosses over, you can find motorists and bicyclists sharing the road — people on the way to work or to school.
About a block east, a derelict train track runs parallel, inviting no one to pedal along the bumpy, weed-choked, littered path.
That could be changing, and the changes could be far more substantial than might be apparent.
A non-profit organization, Friends of the Lowcountry Lowline (FLL), has formed in order to help transform the off-putting eyesore into a 1.5-mile landscaped, paved walking and bicycle path going from Woolfe Street to Mount Pleasant Street. The obvious changes brought by the Charleston Rail Line Linear Park would be visual (from unsightly to attractive) and functional (from useless to useful by giving pedestrians and bicycle riders access to a separate, safe place).
Those alone are reasons to applaud the efforts of FLL. Surely motorists, some of whom are still uncomfortable driving next to bicyclists, would welcome the path siphoning bike traffic off city streets.
And surely cyclists would welcome a smooth, safe path along the spine of the peninsula.
But as Adam Parker reported Monday, similar projects in other cities have done much more. They have spurred retail and residential growth, thereby stimulating local economies and increasing municipal tax receipts.
And unique to Charleston, the proposed bikeway is seen as a way to heal wounds left when I-26 was built and divided communities along its way.
Of course, the first thing that has to happen is for the Friends of the Lowcountry Lowline to negotiate with Norfolk Southern, which owns the rail property, and find a way to make it happen.
FLL is committed to raising money for the project. And while the city hasn’t indicated it is considering the option, a tax increment finance plan is a way the city could contribute financially.
The Lowcountry Open Land Trust’s successful purchase of 17 acres of land adjacent to Angel Oak Park is a good example of how public-private partnerships can work. Government agencies should be more open to consider funding projects when people care enough to support them financially.
The Lowcountry Lowline is a rare opportunity to support the health benefits and traffic relief of biking as well as economic development and community building — all in one project.
It’s a project worth wide local support.
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