Plan for bike lane over the Ashley River heads to County Council

A plan to convert one of the four lanes on the T. Allen Legare Bridge over the Ashley River to a bike and pedestrian path has headed to County Council for design and other approvals.

Bicyclists cheered when Charleston City Council gave the go-ahead to a plan to convert a lane of the T. Allen Legare Bridge over the Ashley River to bike and pedestrian use, but the project still has to go through a county approval process.

Charleston County spokesman Shawn Smetana said County Council will discuss the plan in August, including what the specific design might be and the cost of construction. The project, budgeted at $2 million, will take 12 to 18 months to complete, he said, but a date to begin the work hasn’t been set.

Vic Rawl, County Council’s vice chairman, said the city proposed the project and planned to pay for it with its portion of proceeds from the county’s half-cent sales tax.

He’s not certain about the process for the project moving forward, but said County Council usually doesn’t interfere with plans a municipality has approved for its own share of sales-tax funds. Rawl represents a portion of West Ashley.

Councilwoman Colleen Condon, who also represents a part of West Ashley, said she doesn’t think there’s a risk of the county not moving forward with the project.

But, she said, County Council will have to approve contracts related to the project, and in the process of approving them, the county might tweak the design and other parts of the plan.

For instance, Condon said, one change she would like to see is a change to the timing of the stop light at Albermarle and Folly roads, near the foot of the bridge.

The light there is now timed to allow all cars turning onto Albermarle in the morning to pass through the intersection before the light turns red. The light was timed that way to make it easier for parents to drop off their children at Porter-Gaud School, she said. But the system holds up traffic on Folly Road, which then backs up.

“We need to make sure there’s access to the school,” Condon said.

But it’s also important not to back up traffic on Folly Road. “That absolutely must be addressed.”

Kurt Cavanaugh, executive director of Charleston Moves, said he was happy with the city’s decision, and he hopes the county moves forward quickly because the project has been in the works a long time.

“We’re thinking full-steam ahead,” he said.

Harry Lesesne, executive director of the Charleston Parks Conservancy, said his group received $100,000 from the Speedwell Foundation to improve the West Ashley Greenway and the West Ashley Bikeway. The foundation agreed to donate an additional $100,000 because the bike lane was approved, he said.

Eventually the Bikeway will connect to the Greenway, and the Greenway will be connected to the bike lane on the bridge over the Ashley River, creating a safer way to bike downtown.

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