Berlin G. Myers Parkway extension is outdated

DOT Commissioner Robby Robbins stated in a recent Post and Courier article regarding the DOT public hearing for the Berlin G. Myers Parkway (BMP3) that, “We are all pleased to be at this point, and we look forward to getting this project started.”

By we, I assume Mr. Robbins is referring to the construction crews and engineers who will make big money on building an overpriced highway that does little to decrease long term traffic congestion, which is illustrated in DOT’s own traffic studies.

Many Summerville drivers recognize that what the BMP3 will bring is an increased risk of flooding for thousands of residents along The Sawmill Branch Canal, the most important flood control system in Summerville.

The BMP3 will erase more than 50 acres of wetlands and increase run-off into a drainage system that has already been reported by public officials as close to capacity. This is unnerving news since Summerville’s town app shows stormwater drainage is the number one complaint.

Robbins expressed his hopes that people who support the extension will come to the SCDOT meeting and let the group know how badly it is needed.

What is needed is a commissioner who understands the concept of smart growth. The BMG III extension fits the definition of induced demand. Induced demand happens when a new road is built thinking there will be less congestion, but the result is even more congestion.

This has been proven time and time again over the last decades in cities such as Atlanta, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, etc. which have spent billions of dollars on massive road systems only to be met with intractable gridlock. As the old saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Sidewalks, bike baths, and mass transit are long term solutions.

Traffic congestion is certainly a concern for Summerville as it was ranked the 59th fastest growing city in the nation in 2017. However, a greater concern for Summerville is flooding. We should be finding ways to protect the natural resources that help decrease the problems of flooding.

Although Summerville is aptly named Flowertown in the Pines, the town was built within the confines of a swamp. Summerville needs to find ways to deal with the realities that flooding risks will only increase as climate change, partly created by cars, becomes more extreme.

Here are some facts that local leaders need to be aware of before they jump on the road paving band wagon. A recent climate report cites that heavy rainfall events will double in South Carolina by end of this century.

During the worst storms, 20 percent more rain will fall than does now. FEMA’s debt was reported recently to be at 20.5 billion as of September 2019, said a GAO report. The Union of Concerned Scientists reported in 2018 that SC ranks fifth in the nation for most at-risk homes in danger of flooding.

Robbins is trying to make it easier for Summerville commuters to reach Interstate 26.

My question is, where will these additional cars go when they get there? I-26 has been suffering from gridlock for the past two decades. I-26 can’t handle more traffic from Summerville to Charleston.

DOT is wasting our resources on the BMP3 when these dollars should be used on mass transit and other real solutions for public transportation.

The most disheartening part of completing the BMP3 is losing part of Summerville’s crown jewel, the Sawmill Branch Bike and Pedestrian trail, to traffic noise and it’s natural buffer.

Many residents and visitors are attracted to the quiet and peaceful recreation this trail provides as it traverses multiple neighborhoods. The sighting of wood storks (threatened), herons and other birds and mammals are a special treat for many who walk the trail. The BMP3 will destroy the habitat on which these species depend.

Political will to shift funding priorities will take both courage and foresight. Let’s work with nature to make our communities more healthy, prosperous and equitable. Paving through a problem only to add another problem doesn’t add value to the Summerville community.

Ben Hough is an active resident of Summerville for the past 17 years.