Boeing's land expansion to shift International Boulevard to neighbor's backyards
Cardinals and their feathered friends flit around in the backyard retreats set up for them at the home of Merle Morton off Dorchester Road in North Charleston.
"It's taken me more than 40 years to get them here," the 80-year-old retired bookkeeper said while watching the birds dart from one feeder to another outside the kitchen window of her Marilyn Drive home in the Glyn Terrace subdivision. "I love looking at them. They add some color in the dead of winter."
Morton's home, like scores of others, backs up to a huge chunk of land the state is leasing to Boeing for the aerospace company's future expansion. A new highway will slice through the Boeing land right behind Morton's neighborhood.
Boeing hasn't said what it intends to do with the nearly 500 acres of mostly wooded land and a former mobile home park, and that has residents such as Morton concerned.
She welcomes the jobs and opportunities the Chicago-based airplane manufacturer will bring to the Lowcountry, but she wants to know more.
"Boeing is good, but we have to be considered too," she said. "They have to consider the residents."
Boeing spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said the company plans to meet with neighborhood groups after the new year, but no dates have been set.
For more than a year, residents have worried about what was going to happen to the former Trailwood mobile home park, a huge, rectangular swath backing up to the Glyn Terrace and Northpointe subdivisions.
The last mobile home residents moved out this year after property owner Truluck Properties decided in 2012 to sell the land and another chunk along Trailwood Drive behind Morton's home.
"They never let us know anything," Morton said, referring to city officials who have pondered rezoning the land over the past year.
"We are very much concerned about what's going to happen back there," said Glyn Terrace Neighborhood Association President Steve Ayer, a former member of North Charleston City Council. "We are concerned about the lighting, the drainage, the noise and whatever comes with it. What's going to happen to our property values when you build an industrial park around our community?"
In addition to what Boeing decides to build on the property, residents have another reason to be concerned.
Road work ahead
A four-lane highway is planned along a power line that runs behind Glyn Terrace. That road is expected to eventually replace a critical section of International Boulevard, the highway that now carries air travelers to Charleston International Airport and workers to Boeing, and acts as a cut-through via Michaux Parkway for motorists between the Mark Clark Expressway and Dorchester Road.
Road work ahead
In all, about 33,300 cars travel International Boulevard every day, according to traffic counts from the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments.
The combination of airport and commuter traffic on the road between the airport and Interstate 526 has concerned the Federal Aviation Administration for years, according to Charleston County Council Vice Chairman Elliott Summey. As a result, the county has been working on road plans that will dramatically change traffic around the airport, Boeing's campus and nearby neighborhoods.
While the roads are still being planned, with public hearings expected in 2014, these are the key points shown in plans reviewed by The Post and Courier:
In each scenario for what would be a $42 million project, a new road would be built adjacent to a power line that runs between the former Trailwood trailer park and the Glyn Terrace and Northpointe neighborhoods, connecting from West Montague Avenue to the airport.
In each scenario, Michaux Parkway would connect to the new road, but would no longer be open to commuter traffic continuing to International Boulevard and the Boeing campus.
Meanwhile, the state plans to widen Interstate 526 from West Montague Avenue to Interstate 26, which will mean reworking the interchanges at West Montague, International Boulevard, and I-26.
The section of International Boulevard between I-526 and the airport would eventually not be used for airport traffic.
"In the short term, five to 10 years, we could have both roads," said Summey. "This is a proactive look at infrastructure, rather than a reactive one."
Jim Armstrong, the county's assistant administrator who oversees transportation and public works, said public meetings, preliminary road design and permitting will take place next year.
"I believe we're looking at completing this project in about three years," he said.
While it may seem today like Charleston County is re-routing airport traffic for Boeing's benefit, Summey said the road plans pre-date Boeing's arrival. He said traffic studies began in 2008 after the FAA stopped paying for maintenance on International Boulevard and Michaux Parkway because of all the commuter traffic.
Michaux Parkway, which cuts through airport land, was never intended to be a commuter road. It was an old construction road that motorists started using, and it morphed into a short cut between Dorchester Road and International Boulevard to I-526 and Tanger Outlet Center.
Depending on the final plans the county develops for new roads, much of that traffic could end up zooming by within a few yards of Marcelino Pascual's Marilyn Drive residence, where he has lived for the past 32 years.
"It will be too noisy here," the 75-year-old retired Navy serviceman and military police officer said while walking through the remnants of a vegetable garden in his backyard. "We are quiet here."
Pascual has grown accustomed to airplanes flying overhead on their approach to Charleston International, just a mile or so away through the woods across Boeing's planned expansion zone.
He doesn't like the prospect of a new highway coming so close to his back door, but he doesn't plan to move either.
"I will stay here until I die," he said. "This is my home."
Ayer is upset about the highway as well.
"Who wants a four-lane highway plus an industry beside their neighborhood?" he said.
Morton mentioned talk of sound walls rising to deflect noise from traffic and industry workings, but she hasn't seen any concrete plans.
Ayer said a county official once told him, "'If we build that road, we will put up a wall.' It will stop some of the noise, but not all of it."
Traffic and industrial noise will be addressed, said North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, who is Elliott Summey's father.
"We will be working to protect the neighborhoods as far as noise and any operations that may go in there," the mayor said. "I think, with the working relationship we have with Boeing, I'm sure they will work with us."
"We're not sure (about sound barriers) yet," he said. "It will depend on the design."
Paul Campbell, director of airports for the Charleston County Aviation Authority, said the road scenarios haven't been nailed down, but he confirmed plans to move airport traffic off International Boulevard and over to a new road running between Glyn Terrace and the former mobile home park, and eventually joining Michaux Parkway at either a traffic circle or lighted intersection.
Airport traffic will continue forward on the new road, which also may be called International Boulevard, running between the airport police department and rental car parking before crossing over and tying into what's now International Boulevard just before the airport parking deck.
Much of the current International Boulevard between I-526 and the airport would cease to exist, at least for public use, and part of Michaux Parkway also could disappear for commuter use from the new tie-in with the new International Boulevard over to the entrance to Boeing.
Boeing hasn't decided how it will reconfigure the roads on its newly leased land once it starts expanding.
"You will still be able to get to the airport going by Boeing," said Jack Jones, Boeing South Carolina's top executive. "At least for a while yet."
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or David Slade at 937-5552.