Regional planners have a daunting and important task as they develop a strategy to preserve scenic and historic Riverland Drive. But retaining the character of the road was the reason the old King's Highway on James Island was designated a state scenic byway in the first place.
Unfortunately, Riverland already has seen additional traffic and development since that designation was awarded in 1988. And it can expect a great deal more pressure in the near term.
Preserving the character of the historic road was surely one major reason that under the original plan to extend I-526, it would not have intersected with Riverland.
But that intersection is now on the drawing board, as are new interchanges on Central Park Road, which connects with Riverland.
Meanwhile, more development is under way along Riverland. The scenic aspect of the road makes it particularly attractive for homesites.
It's hard to imagine that the tree-lined two-lane road can retain its character with the introduction of hundreds, if not thousands, of additional vehicles a day. Nevertheless, that is the goal of transportation planners with the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments.
Certainly, that goal had the support of the many residents who attended a public meeting on the proposal Tuesday.
The COG has received a $35,000 federal grant to prepare a "corridor management plan" for the 4.8-mile road.
Planners should look first to mitigation requirements that already are on the books to protect the most scenic portion of Riverland, which enjoys a canopy of live oaks along much of the stretch south of Camp Road.
A buffer of trees and undergrowth 100 feet wide is required to protect the look and feel of the historic road.
But that buffer appears to fall short along a portion of the road on either side of its intersection with George Griffith Boulevard. If mitigation requirements have eroded, planners should take the necessary steps to make sure they are restored.
Mark Johnson, public works coordinator for the Town of James Island, told the Council of Governments planners at the Tuesday meeting that the road has already reached capacity. "As a resident and a dad, I would rather there not be any more traffic."
Unfortunately, that might be wishful thinking in view of the ongoing development and planned traffic projects on and near Riverland. Making it a reality could require that some of those plans be curtailed.
Meanwhile, those who cherish other similarly designated scenic roads - Ashley River Road between West Ashley and Summerville, River Road on Johns Island, Long Point Road east of the Cooper, Highway 174 to Edisto, and others - should keep a close eye on what is eventually done on Riverland Drive.
Ultimately, all of the coastal scenic roads will require more protection from the pressures of development.
This comparatively short portion of Riverland Drive is a good place to start making sure that more safeguards are in place.
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