Several days ago a friend was voicing frustration about the traffic on Savannah Highway, Maybank Highway to Johns Island, and downtown. I told him I hitchhiked from Johns Island to Charleston High School my senior year, having to time it just right or I would not get to school or home as the number of cars were at a minimum except during rush hours.
I also told him there was a day when I could roll a bowling ball down King Street after 6 p.m. and not hit a car. Savannah Highway and Ashley River Road and Highway 61 provided two lanes of quick access to anywhere West Ashley. I further told him a large percentage of my high school classmates went off to find jobs as there was little hope of finding anything locally. I stayed and got in the commercial real estate business and left my fingerprints all over the area.
Today things are different. Our children live and work here, and, yes, the traffic is a nightmare created by me and others in the development business.
In 2003 when I ran for mayor I raised the issue of slowing down until our infrastructure was upgraded to accommodate what was happening. Needless to say that message did not go over well.
Now I have another suggestion I hope will be better received. I believe the time has come to begin serious discussions of where and how to get the funds needed to take care of our most pressing infrastructure deficiencies.
All we need to do is look across the Cooper River to what leaders there did. Impact fees were imposed, and those funds were used to address transportation problems.
The interesting thing is that the efforts were driven by Harry Hallman, Billy Swails and Cheryl Woods Flowers, all of whom were conservative business persons who had the political courage to do what needed to be done.
Johns Island is booming, and more is to come. I believe more than 10,000 units have been approved. West Ashley has a 6,000-unit development in the making. West End and the project in the Neck, new hotels and apartments in the old city and, of course, the gathering place on James Island with 50 units per acre should provide all the information that is needed to at least begin the discussion of impact fees on development in the city.
I loved my old city as much as anyone, and I also tire of the traffic. However, I don’t miss the poverty and lack of opportunity when there was no congestion.
We need to look at every possible solution to our transportation problem, and I believe impact fees would be a good place to start.