Study complete on bike lane over river; findings withheld

The far right lane of the U.S. Highway 17 North bridge, from West Ashley to the Charleston peninsula, would be changed to a bike and pedestrian path.

State officials have completed their review of whether a bike and pedestrian path can be incorporated into Charleston's lower Ashley River bridges, but for now they aren't saying whether they endorse it.

Three months after state Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge initially said he wasn't warm to the idea, an agency spokesperson said the department's investigation is done. But spokesman Pete Poore declined to give any details, saying St. Onge first wanted to talk to Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.

"Mayor Riley is the person who asked for it," Poore said in an email to The Post and Courier. "The secretary will discuss it with him face to face so that he won't have to read it in a newspaper."

Riley's spokesperson said Wednesday the city has not yet received any contact from the department on the issue or knew when a meeting might be held.

Charleston County Deputy Administrator Kurt Taylor said he hasn't been told of the department's findings, but was notified that a letter would be mailed Friday outlining the DOT's position. He expects the note to be "constructive" and a chance to move forward.

In August, Riley called the bike-and-pedestrian lane idea "one of those projects that stays on my desk" amid growing concerns of cycling safety throughout the region. The comments came a month after Mitchell Hollon was struck and killed by a work van while cycling the James Island connector.

The plan under review includes converting one of the four lanes on the U.S. Highway 17 North bridge to a marked-off path for commuters wanting to either walk or bike to work, entertainment destinations or for recreation.

A Charleston County government study indicates that it is possible to make the conversion without slowing traffic on what is considered a major north-south federal highway.

The state DOT's initial hesitation centered on how the conversion might disrupt the local transportation grid, and the impact that any change might have on the route's drawbridge. The state owns the bridge and must sign off on any changes.