Drainage fix worth the wait

The Septima Clark Crosstown Expressway on Dec. 18, 2009.

Phase 2 of the city’s plan to stop flooding on the Crosstown began Monday. Very likely that’s when the complaints began, too.

For the next two years, motorists will have to adjust to some detours as workers drill eight shafts between 120 and 154 feet deep. Six will be along the Crosstown between Coming Street and the Ashley River and two along President Street between Harmon Field and Cannon Street.

Steve Kirk, Charleston’s senior engineering project manager, predicted that the detours won’t cause significant traffic disruptions after people get used to them.

But anyone inclined to complain about the inconvenience should remember the community’s insistent — and warranted — demands for the city to fix severe flooding problems on and near the Crosstown, formally known as the Septima P. Clark Parkway.

Chances are delays due to construction will be a lot less of a headache than those due to flooding. Just focus on the time when it rains and motorists won’t have to worry that their cars will stall in the middle of knee-deep water.

But the city still must be vigilant about traffic problems, particularly involving emergency vehicles, which need assurance that they can get to the hospitals in a hurry. Medical emergencies don’t wait until rush hour is over.

Traffic flow is already compromised because of work being done on nearby Spring and Cannon streets.

And as construction begins on WestEnd, a complex of tall buildings for residential and office use, just north of the Crosstown, traffic solutions might have to be tweaked,

Many of the same people who will be taking detours were also inconvenienced during Phase 1 of the drainage project. At least this time, they will have some vegetation to look at in the median — added during Phase 1.

Work will go mostly underground for Phase 3 — tunnels connecting the shafts.

Then the last two phases will involve building a “wet well” for large stormwater pumps and a pump station at the Ashley River.

So if your daily route is altered during the drainage work, enjoy taking in new sites along the way, while envisioning a functional Crosstown during a rain storm at high tide in 2020 when Phase 5 is complete.