Mount Pleasant officials have set an admirable goal to keep traffic moving on Highway 17 from the foot of the Ravenel Bridge to Wando High School, nearly 11 miles.
As Prentiss Findlay reported this week, the price tag for this is about $436,000. That's not chump change, by any means, but it's probably little more than a speed bump compared with the $80 million Johnnie Dodds widening project.
What do they have to look forward to, in addition to less fuel consumption?
They can look across the river(s), and they'll get a pretty good idea.
Folly and Maybank
Charleston uses a different system but also gets good results, according to Hernan Pena, director of the city's department of transportation.
One place in particular that has undergone a lot of changes is the intersection of Folly and Maybank roads.
The Charleston County transportation tax-funded project was completed in June 2010, so it might be difficult to remember what the intersection was like before the improvements.
There have been a few hiccups, as to be expected with any project like this. New traffic signals, patterns or times are always going to have some kinks.
When the project was completed, Pena said, there were some complaints about the traffic heading north on Folly and looking to make a left turn onto Old Folly Road.
Because of that feedback, additional timing adjustments were made, Pena said. Traffic coming over the Wappoo Creek bridge to go right onto Maybank gets a bit of a stutter step when the light turns red, and then a green right-turn arrow pops up a few seconds later.
Pena explained why: The arrow to turn right onto Maybank Highway from Folly Road operates in conjunction with the light for traffic to turn left from Maybank Highway onto Folly Road. So it's independent of the signal on Folly Road.
"Yes, there is a slight delay," Pena said, between the time the light for Folly turns yellow, then red and then when Maybank gets the green light. "That's a matter of how the equipment is set up."
Other changes might be unpopular, but they're undoubtedly safer, like the no U-turn sign for the folks coming from Maybank onto Folly.
"Even if the bridge opened, if people are not blocking the intersection, you can still have traffic coming out of Country Club (Road)," Pena said, so the no U-turn prevents any potential fender benders.
Of course, it also prevents people from bailing out when they see that the drawbridge is up and seeking an alternate path, so it might seem like the wait is longer.
But there's a lot of technology at work to keep things flowing as they should.
In fact, that intersection is part of the larger Folly Road corridor. More than three miles, all the way from South Windermere to Camp Road and beyond, is coordinated from the city's control center.
Traffic is favored moving northbound or inbound to Charleston in the mornings and outbound or southbound in the afternoons, and timing is adjusted further at night so that people aren't sitting at an otherwise empty intersection waiting for the light to turn green.
"After the adjustments were made (and) people adjusted their travel routes, we have not received any complaints," Pena said.
That's the best endorsement of all.