Charleston County approved a $148 million road plan for S.C. Highway 41 dubbed the "road to compromise" but some Mount Pleasant residents and public officials don't see it that way.
County Council unanimously voted Aug. 24 in favor of the plan after four years of design efforts. Earlier plans were scrapped or changed in the face of public opposition, and a spokesman for the Park West subdivision vowed to fight the newly approved compromise throughout the coming federal approval process.
The vote clears the way for engineering work needed to submit the route for federal review by the Corps of Engineers. Construction could begin in 2025 and when complete should alleviate traffic for about 15 years, according to the county.
Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie and Councilwoman Kathy Landing — who is challenging Haynie for mayor this year — both urged the county to reconsider the package prior to the vote.
Haynie suggested that incremental improvements could be made while studies continue, while Landing criticized the impact on Laurel Hill park and suggested the county's projections are too aggressive in terms of future traffic demands on the road.
Even among Mount Pleasant's Black settlement communities there was disagreement. Phillips community residents reiterated their support for the plan, but George Freeman, a spokesman for the 7 Mile community, said the road concept "is neither fair nor equitable."
Freeman previously presented a plan that, as an alternative to the county's concept, called for running a new road through the middle of Laurel Hill county park. County officials said the plan offered no improvement to the compromise.
Highway 41 runs through the middle of Phillips, where most properties are owned by the descendants of Black residents who created the community in the late 1800s. The connection of Highway 41 with U.S. Highway 17 impacts the 7 Mile community, which like Phillips is a Black settlement community.
Fred Smalls, a Phillips resident, said it's a good compromise that doesn't put the burden on just one community.
The plan calls for widening most of Highway 41 to four lanes, but through Phillips it would be two lanes plus a center turn lane. A new bypass would be created from the highway into Park West, cutting across the edge of Laurel Hill park, and much of the traffic heading to U.S. Highway 17 would be channeled to Winnowing Way to ease demands on the intersection of the two highways.
Park West, Dunes West, Rivertowne and other modern subdivisions — all far larger than Phillips, which has about 250 homes — use Highway 41 to get to other parts of Mount Pleasant or to Berkeley County across the Wando River.
The two-lane highway is roughly four miles long from Highway 17 to the Wando River bridge. The highway has become jammed with traffic during rush hours, and the county has been trying to develop an acceptable improvement plan for more than four years.
- The county's first plan called for widening the two-lane road to four lanes — more, counting a turn lane a multi-use path — from end to end. Widening the road through the middle of the historic Black community of Phillips drew broad opposition.
- The second plan called for routing much of the traffic around Phillips, by widening Dunes West Boulevard. Residents of the huge Park West and Dunes West subdivisions were outraged.
- This year the "road to compromise" plan was unveiled. That plan dropped the idea of making either Highway 41 through Phillips or Dunes West Boulevard four lanes, and dramatically redesigned plans for the intersection with U.S. Highway 17. Phillips residents were pleased, but many Dunes West and Park West residents are opposed.
“Our intention is to oppose the path through Park West throughout the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act review) process," said Kerry Roller, speaking for the Park West association.
He said the road plan would harm the property values of hundreds of homes and send more traffic through the area, risking public safety.