Advocates for making one lane of Charleston's lower Ashley River bridge exclusive to bikers and pedestrians went on the offensive, stressing the health benefits, commuting opportunity and traffic reduction the change would bring.
"We realize that there are serious traffic and parking concerns both in West Ashley and especially on the small, dense peninsula," Stephanie Hunt, chairman of the board of Charleston Moves, said during a press conference Friday.
"We also realize that encouraging more cars and accommodating only cars on roadways and bridges like the Legare Bridge is not the answer."
Hunt's comments came as advocates of the lane change for the T. Allen Legare Jr. Bridge are trying to sway political momentum ahead of Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Up for consideration is whether the city should sign off on a state and county agreement to go forward with the design effort. Mayor Joe Riley and Councilman Mike Seekings were at the press conference and reiterated their support.
As envisioned, one of the Legare's four northbound lanes would be closed to vehicular traffic and made exclusive to bikes and walkers. Supporters say it would greatly expand access to downtown. Charleston County would pay for the $2 million project from the half-cent sales tax.
But approval remains in doubt as several council members have expressed reservations and worries over what the change would mean for in-bound traffic from West Ashley.
Riley, who said he expected council will ultimately back the idea, said Friday the effort has been clouded by misinformation in recent days. He noted the design change would make the bridge safer by slowing vehicle speeds down. He added that based on engineering studies, the delay would be minimal, measured by a matter of seconds per car.
It also would eliminate what he called the Darlington Raceway "experience" that goes with changing lanes on the bridge.
Supporters also pointed to a design change meant to alleviate traffic backups by creating additional turn lane space at Lockwood Boulevard and Bee Street where cars line up during morning rush hour.
Seekings said the agreement the city will vote on covers the county going forward with the design plan, along with assurances that city and public input will be sought along the way.
He called the decision to back the idea a simple one. "People will use it," he said, describing the bridge path as "no hill, short, flat; easy."
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.
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