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Charleston extends deadline to comment on design of Ashley River pedestrian bridge

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A rendering shows a proposed pedestrian and bicycle bridge connecting West Ashley and downtown Charleston. The city extended a deadline for accepting public comments on the proposed span, which will cost nearly $22 million. File/Provided

The city of Charleston is offering the public a little more time to weigh in on the planned $22 million pedestrian bridge over the Ashley River.

People can now provide comments on the proposed bridge through May 17 — a two-week extension for feedback. The city considers it a "critically important" project, said spokesman Jack O'Toole, and wants to give people more opportunity to weigh in on design elements.

Feedback can be shared via the project website at ashleyrivercrossing.com.

Designs for the Ashley River Crossing — a bicycle and pedestrian bridge that will connect West Ashley and downtown Charleston — are in the development stage. 

City officials are preparing the environmental permits. They need to settle on a design that will allow boats to pass under the bridge. And they won't choose a contractor for the project until later this year.

The new bridge is expected to traverse less than half a mile of water directly south of the T. Allen Legare Bridge. But once it is completed, it is expected to serve as a vital connection for the city, helping to reduce the number of vehicle miles that Charleston's residents drive every year. 

The pedestrian bridge would immediately tie into an existing trail system that spans inner and outer West Ashley.

The West Ashley Greenway and Bikeway are already popular features for Charleston residents, who use those protected pedestrian lanes to exercise and move from one community to another. But city officials expect the routes to take on far more importance once the new bridge is opened.

Not only will the trails serve as the commuter highways into downtown, they could help to lure more Charleston residents and visitors across the river in the opposite direction. That foot and bike traffic, in turn, could help drive new business and redevelopment in parts of West Ashley, which has been an aspiration of city leaders for years.

To prepare for more people walking and biking, the city also plans to spend $460,000 to upgrade several intersections where the Greenway crosses Folly Road and Wappoo Road. Separately, the city also plans to overhaul the pedestrian crossings along Savannah Highway where the Greenway meets up with the Bikeway.

In the city's application for an $18 million federal transportation grant, Charleston leaders estimated the pedestrian bridge could cut out more than 66 million vehicle miles over a 30-year period. 

That reduction in car and truck traffic over the existing bridges should also make it easier for people who use Savannah Highway, St. Andrews Boulevard and the Septima P. Clark Parkway to get to and from work. 

Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.

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