Liberty Hill Improvement Council officials said Wednesday that North Charleston officials are ignoring their input on redesigning East Montague Avenue.
In a press conference, Liberty Hill Improvement Council President Coakley Hilton and revitalization chairman Derosher Price, both candidates for North Charleston City Council, said they commissioned a study last year that supports narrowing East Montague Avenue from four lanes to two through the historically black community.
Their study by the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments showed traffic counts at 7,600 vehicles a day, a level low enough to allow for the sprawling, four-lane slab of asphalt with a central turn lane to be transformed into a two-lane, tree-lined boulevard with curbside parking from Park Circle to the rail line just east of Rivers Avenue.
The city commissioned a separate study in March that showed the traffic count was 12,384 vehicles a day and determined it would be a mistake to reduce the lanes, North Charleston Planning Director Bill Gore said.
"They said if we do the lane reductions, we are going to run into some unacceptable traffic conditions," Gore said.
Price and Hilton prefer the narrower road.
"We are trying to better our community," Price said. "In Olde North Charleston, they have two lanes with on-street parking. We want the same thing that they have. This is about the quality of life for our citizens."
Hilton said he thinks the plan would revitalize the neighborhood.
"If we are going to rid our community of drugs and undesirable elements, we have to make our community look like one that doesn't tolerate that activity," Hilton said. "We can't sit idly by and watch those around us continue to improve while we do nothing."
Hilton was referring to the new Oak Terrace Preserve neighborhood and I'On's planned Mixson Avenue development where hundreds of new homes will rise on either side of Liberty Hill.
Councilman Sam Hart of Liberty Hill, who is being opposed by Price in the June 14 election, disagrees with narrowing East Montague.
"If you cut it down to two lanes, it will cause traffic congestion," Hart said. "I don't think (it) will add to the quality of life."
Gore said he thinks the Council of Governments used a state Department of Transportation traffic count for East Montague Avenue where it runs through Palmetto Gardens, east of Liberty Hill. There is less traffic because a lot of drivers coming from Interstate 26 and Rivers Avenue turn to go to Charleston County School of the Arts and nearby neighborhoods.
The traffic volume west of Mixson Avenue through Liberty Hill is much higher and the two new neighborhoods, when built out, will add more traffic through Liberty Hill, Gore said.
Hilton wants to talk with the city to look at the proposal again.
"If it's not feasible, we don't want to do anything that's going to hurt our community," Hilton said. "We are open to compromise."