BY KURT TAYLOR
Charleston County Government has some good news to share as a follow-up to The Post and Courier's article, "Study: Fatalities high, money for projects low", written by Robert Behre on April 17. The article states: "South Carolina continues to rank at the bottom for spending on bike lanes and sidewalks - and it ranks near the top for pedestrian and cyclist fatalities." This is definitely concerning to those of us working in government throughout our state. But the citizens need to know that in Charleston County, County Council is increasingly allocating money toward bike and pedestrian facilities.
In fact, Charleston County government has a priority of including bike and pedestrian facilities in its transportation projects. One of my directives when I became responsible for the sales tax program in 2006 was to consider including them in all of our projects no matter how small. The county's transportation sales tax program has spent approximately $20.9 million on sidewalks, multi-use paths and bike lanes since the program started. This includes projects that are completed as well as those under construction. And there's another $7.9 million for projects currently in the planning phase (not under construction), such as Harbor View Road on James Island and the West Ashley Circle, and 15-plus smaller-scale projects across the county.
When asked to share his thoughts about working with the county to improve bike/pedestrian opportunities, Charleston Moves Executive Director Tom Bradford wrote in an April 22 email: "At Charleston Moves we've enjoyed a growing, cooperative relationship with Charleston County and the Charleston County transportation sales tax program. Everyone in the Lowcountry community, whether bike riders or not, will benefit from the progress we've begun to make together. We can cite a number of specific projects, but we especially single out the Battery2Beach Route and the great contributions made by County Council member Colleen Condon and County employees Jim Armstrong and Richard Turner whose efforts are helping to make it a reality. Signs will be up on large portions of the route by summer's end, due in no small measure to the dedication of these folks."
Charleston County plays a major role in the consideration of cyclists and pedestrians on important projects in the area that involve multiple agencies. For example:
. In conjunction with the Town of Mount Pleasant and the Town of Sullivan's Island, Charleston County is currently adding a multi-use path to Ben Sawyer Boulevard leading up to and off of the Ben Sawyer Bridge. (The bridge itself is an S.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) project.)
. Charleston County funded and managed the Ashley River Bridge retrofit study that was requested by the City of Charleston.
. Charleston County asked the DOT to include bike and pedestrian paths in planning the Mark Clark Expressway completion project.
. The County constructed sidewalks on Highway 171 between Orange Grove Road and the Boy Scouts of America facility that connect to the City of Charleston's new North Bridge Park multi-use path.
. Sidewalks along the entire length of Fort Johnson Road on James Island are being added with funding from the Charleston County transportation sales tax program.
. Since 2007, over 15 independent sidewalk projects have been designed and constructed through the bicycle/pedestrian category of Charleston County's annual transportation sales tax funding program.
The "complete streets" concept is defined in the county's comprehensive transportation plan, and we pursue those principles to plan for accommodating multiple modes of transportation in new projects: automobile, bicycle, pedestrian and mass transit. See the plan's description at http://www.smallchangeforbigchange.org/presentations/ComprehensiveTransportationPlan.pdf.
Bicycle and pedestrian features are included for each of our transportation sales tax bonded projects:
. Maybank Highway - adding bicycle lanes along Maybank Highway and pedestrian facilities along the pitchfork roads.
. Camp Road at Folly Road - 4-foot wide bicycle lanes and 5-foot wide sidewalks on Folly Road, and a 5-foot wide sidewalk on Camp Road.
. Bees Ferry Road - 10-foot wide shared-use path on the north side and a 4-foot wide sidewalk on the south side.
. Johnnie Dodds Boulevard - 4-foot wide bicycle lanes and five-foot wide sidewalks on the frontage roads and side roads.
. Harbor View Road - 5-foot-wide sidewalks and 4-foot-wide bike lanes on both sides of the road.
. Folly Road at Maybank Highway - 4-foot wide sidewalks throughout the project on both sides of each road.
. U.S. 17/S.C. 61 (Wesley Drive) - 5-foot wide sidewalks on Folly Road, Folly Road Boulevard and Wesley Drive with 10-foot wide shared-use path in the vicinity of the West Ashley Greenway.
. Palmetto Commerce Parkway - 8-foot wide shared-use path.
. Future Drive and Northside Drive Extension - 10-foot wide shared-use path and/or 5-foot wide sidewalks, depending on the section of the project.
. MUSC roadway infrastructure improvements - variable width sidewalks throughout the project limits on both sides of each road.
. Glenn McConnell Parkway/Bees Ferry Road (West Ashley traffic circle) - 11-foot wide sidewalks on each side of the West Ashley Circle.
. Glenn McConnell at I-526 - five-foot wide sidewalks on Magwood Drive and a paved shoulder available for use by bicyclists on Glenn McConnell Parkway.
We hope citizens will learn more details, see updates on projects and provide feedback through the Charleston County's transportation sales tax program website: http://roads.charlestoncounty.org. Incorporating bicycle and pedestrian paths into our new, and sometimes old, roads is a priority for us. We hope you will realize our commitment to your needs and that you will continue to provide us valuable input and suggestions.
Kurt Taylor is Charleston County administrator.