Bumpy road to progress

Cannon and Spring streets, two popular commuter routes across the peninsula, will be converted from one-way to two-way early next year. The work, originally scheduled for completion by November 2015, was delayed while water mains were replaced.

The days of dodging bright orange-and-white barrels and bouncing over metal plates on two popular commuter routes across the Charleston peninsula won’t end this year.

The conversion of Spring and Cannon streets from one-way to two-way traffic won’t be complete until early next year, city spokesman Jack O’Toole said, because work on water mains below both streets is taking longer than expected.

City officials first estimated the work would be done by last Thanksgiving. But workers discovered the water mains had begun to crack and had other problems, so the Charleston Water System decided to replace them. That pushed the deadline to August. Now, they say the project likely won’t wrap up until early 2017.

Matthew Brady, spokesman for Charleston Water System, said it can be challenging to work on the city’s aging downtown infrastructure. The contractor doing the work ran into obstacles including working around existing utilities and coordinating with other construction projects underway.

“We really appreciate the public’s patience as we work to improve the waterlines for the long-term benefit of everyone in the Charleston area,” Brady said.

O’Toole said that after the water main work is done around the end of November, the city will need about six to eight weeks to complete surface work on the roads before the conversion can be made.

Neighborhood residents have been mostly tolerant of the delays because they think that two-way streets will slow traffic, which will be better for their quality of life. But some drivers who use those roads to cross the peninsula have expressed concern that the change will snarl traffic.

After the two-way conversion, traffic heading toward West Ashley on Cannon Street won’t be able to go straight across the Crosstown to the bridge over the Ashley River. Instead, it will have to turn right on President Street, then left on Spring.

Representatives from the city’s Traffic and Transportation Department have said a project traffic study indicated that the intersections at Cannon and President streets and Spring and President streets could handle the flow.

Peter Wilborn, who lives on Cannon Street, said he’s not worried about the delay. “I want the end result so badly, I will put up with anything to get it,” he said.

People simply drive too fast on those streets, he said, making Spring and Cannon more like speedways than neighborhood streets.

But even though the two-way streets will slow traffic, he doesn’t think the conversion will extend the length of time it takes to cross the peninsula. Now he said, drivers speed, then stop and wait at lights, creating an accordion effect that really doesn’t save time.

Cator Sparks, president of the Cannonborough-Elliotborough Neighborhood Association, said his group supports the conversion.

When it’s complete, “new businesses will open, and you’ll see a better neighborhood,” he said. “The delay is frustrating, but we want the work done right.”

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.