Highway 41 widening advancing, but not quickly

The state is poised to replace the S.C. Highway 41 bridge over the Wando River, but work on widening Highway 41 itself is further down the road.

MOUNT PLEASANT — Town leaders have been working behind the scenes to line up support for widening S.C. Highway 41, but while they’re pleased with the progress, they’re also frustrated that work won’t begin anytime soon.

The most recent development would link the highway widening with the widening of Clements Ferry Road — a project that would create a major new traffic artery along the rapidly growing northeastern edge of the Charleston metro area.

Earlier this week, Mayor Linda Page met with representatives from the city of Charleston, Berkeley County and the S.C. Department of Transportation and agreed to pursue a comprehensive study of this stretch from Interstate 526 to U.S. Highway 17.

“I think it’s a good start,” Page said of the study. “Of course, I don’t think it’s enough because I want to widen that corridor sooner than later.”

The town’s lobbying push has been steady since Page announced in her State of the Town address that widening Highway 41 was her top legislative priority.

During town officials’ annual visit to the Legislature, they spent $2,452 on dinner for about 20 town officials and state lawmakers in a private club atop Columbia’s tallest building.

Page said that Capital City Club dinner provided a great opportunity for the town to press its case to lawmakers while also learning about the financial constraints they face.

“The local legislators understand. The key is can we get them to urge the rest of Columbia to understand our plight?” she said. “Everyone in the whole state is scrambling for infrastructure so it’s probably the hardest time anyone could face to try to find that money.”

The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments is expected to conduct the Clements Ferry-Highway 41 corridor study. That regional agency also serves the Charleston Area Transportation Study Committee, which ranks local highway projects. Widening Highway 41 is on the committee’s list but not scheduled to receive money for several more years.

Clements Ferry Road’s widening already is in the works, with construction on the first section, between Interstate 526 and Jack Primus Road to begin soon, said Charleston City Councilman Gary White, whose district covers the city’s Berkeley County area. The state also is moving ahead with replacing the Highway 41 bridge over the Wando River.

“We need to make sure we take a comprehensive approach to 41 itself,” White said. “That’s a major corridor, and as you widen it, it will become even a bigger corridor.”

Meanwhile, there several large developments planned near S.C. Highway 41 and the Wando River, but Clements Ferry also serves the 9,087-acre Cainhoy Plantation property, a forested area that ultimately could become a suburb larger than Daniel Island or Charleston’s peninsula. White said the dominant issue as all new development proposals emerge has been traffic.

Page said she ultimately would like to see an improved road that not only moves car and truck traffic but also serves public transportation and protects the area’s scenic vistas.

“It will become an important corridor: This could become a northeastern loop,” she said. “This is a regional issue, and I think we’re being leaders and stepping out and showing good collaboration early in the process.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.