Don Holt Bridge traffic

Traffic is stacked up — but moves steadily — along Interstate 526 from the Don N. Holt Bridge to North Charleston on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Wade Spees/Staff

SUMMERVILLE — It’s no secret that traffic is one of the biggest issues in the Lowcountry.

But representatives of the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments want to know what areas are the worst.

They held a meeting on Monday and two on Wednesday to learn which transportation issues the public deems to be priorities: road connectivity, intersection design, inadequate infrastructure. 

"Connectivity is one of your toughest challenges because of the wetlands," said Mike Rutkowski, senior associate of transportation for project consultant Stantec.

"It's hard to make those connections, but we've got to do it and we've got to ask it of the development community."

COG is putting together the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan, which sets priorities for spending federal funds on local projects. The document must be updated every five years under federal rules.

“It’s really important for us to get public input,” said COG Planning Director Kathryn Basha. “It’s an opportunity for us to get those balanced views and for people to have a say in something.”

People who drive in the greater Charleston area every day know where the “hot spots” are, she said.

The plan includes highways, roads, bridges, transit facilities, bicycle and pedestrian routes.

“Over $1 billion is committed already in transportation infrastructure and the reality is, it’s still not enough,” Rutkowski said. “We’re still not keeping up with congestion, so we’ve really got to think about it differently.”

William Hamilton, a lawyer who founded the advocacy group Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit, agrees. He thinks it’s time to stop planning and start doing.

COG “has burned through $2.5 million in studies,” he wrote in an email Tuesday. “Studies don’t move people.”

Two years ago, a $1 million study of transit alternatives to Interstate 26 concluded that the best option for moving people between Summerville and Charleston is a new rapid transit bus line.

In November, Charleston voters approved a half-cent sales tax that will generate up to $1.2 billion over 25 years, $600 million of which is earmarked for a Bus Rapid Transit line and bus system improvements.

“A busload of new residents arrives in the Lowcountry each day, many in Dorchester,” Hamilton wrote. “If we don’t stop talking about transit and start building it, every one of those people will end up fighting for space on our roads."

Hamilton did not attend the meeting Wednesday, but Rob Groce, a Summerville resident and paid employee for Hamilton’s group, did and was disappointed to hear no discussion of the rapid transit line.

“It seemed like this was still in some planning phase and did not really present the BRT as a plan that’s already been approved,” Groce said. “There’s lots of planning and then no action is taken. It seems pretty obvious, the public does support this concept and it could be to the benefit of everyone.”

The final LRTP document is expected to be done by January 2018. The 2035 plan can be viewed at bcdcog.com. More information on the plan can be found at chats2040.com.

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Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter. 

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