The Low Line, a linear park that could eventually become the second-largest on the Charleston peninsula, is an extraordinarily good idea. It would offer acres of green space in an increasingly dense part of the city while doubling as a piece of transportation infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians.
But the cost — initially estimated at some $17 million — has proved daunting for city leaders, and rightly so.
Fortunately, a deal struck with property owner Norfolk Southern could slash the cost to city taxpayers to just $2.5 million, with the non-profit Friends of the Lowcountry Low Line matching city funds to buy almost 11 acres of rail right of way from Woolfe Street to Courtland Avenue, a distance of about 1.6 miles.
On Tuesday, Charleston City Council is expected to vote on whether to proceed with the park under the new arrangement. The deal deserves council’s enthusiastic support.
The higher cost of the initial price tag was mostly due to the fact that Norfolk Southern owns a handful of developable parcels along the now-defunct rail line, all of which are pricey pieces of peninsula real estate. The company now plans to sell most of that property separately rather than including it the city package.
That approach should streamline the park plan for city officials.
The city will consider, however, purchasing two of those parcels to develop as affordable housing and a hub for a planned bus rapid transit line connecting Summerville to the Charleston peninsula. Transit and affordable housing are worthy uses that would meet important needs.
City Planning Director Jacob Lindsey told The Post and Courier that plans for the Low Line wouldn’t necessarily preclude a future mass transit use, although the bus rapid transit system should more or less make that unnecessary.
The peninsula needs more park space. Open, green places are increasingly few and far between as dense development pushes farther north toward the Neck area. So it makes sense for the city to act now to preserve and revitalize a disused property, given that urban growth will undoubtedly continue for the foreseeable future.
And as envisioned, the park will still offer plenty of transportation value by providing a way for pedestrians and bicyclists to cover almost half of the peninsula at a safe, comfortable remove from car traffic. That’s a forward-thinking way to prevent future traffic problems by making it more attractive to get around town without a car.
Eventually extending the park all the way to Marion Square would only increase its recreational and transportation value.
The Low Line will be a vital link among peninsula neighborhoods. It probably would have been worth developing even at the initial price, but City Council should have no hesitation moving ahead at such a dramatically reduced cost.
It’s high time for the Low Line.