With only a week before the mayoral runoff between Leon Stavrinakis and John Tecklenburg, the Charleston mayoral candidates are working hard to differentiate themselves.
On Monday, Stavrinakis, a state representative, announced he was opposed to plans to convert a lane of traffic on the T. Allen Legare Bridge for bike and pedestrian use. And Tecklenburg, a businessman, got support for his five-point ethics plan from John Crangle, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause South Carolina.
Stavrinakis, who faces Tecklenburg in a Nov. 17 runoff, was joined in a news conference by local elected officials and leaders from the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce at the Holiday Inn Charleston-Riverview.
“With all of our traffic problems, the last thing we need is to be closing lanes at the entrance to the city,” Stavrinakis said. “I will fight this plan to make sure it never happens.”
Stavrinakis said he wants more bike and pedestrian access, but not this particular project because it would increase commute times.
Charleston City Councilman Marvin Wagner, who represents a portion of outer West Ashley and Johns Island, stood with Stavrinakis and called the lane-conversion plan “dumb as dirt.”
Stavrinakis and Tecklenburg are vying for the chance to replace Mayor Joe Riley, who has led the city for 40 years. Tecklenburg, a businessman, has said he might be able to support the lane conversion. He has concerns about the plan’s impact on traffic, but he supports the concept of improving bike access across the Ashley River. He has said his ultimate support will hinge on a trial closure Charleston County plans for early next year.
On Monday, Tecklenburg said he thinks making the James Island connector safe for bikes likely will turn out to be a better plan than eliminating a traffic lane on the Ashley River bridge.
County project manager Richard Turner and Jamie Krzeminski, a transportation engineer with HDR Inc., said in August that a traffic study showed the new lane would create only a minimal delay for motorists, specifically only slowing traffic by about 7 seconds on average during the 7 to 9 a.m. morning rush.
Stavrinakis said he can’t even get behind the trial closure because he thinks that commutes will be delayed more than 7 seconds. And, he added, “why not spend time and dollars on things that improve congestion.”
The county plans to widen the bridge’s off-ramp that leads to Bee Street and Lockwood Boulevard later this year to add a lane and ease congestion caused by morning commuters waiting for a green light there.
Stavrinakis supports that part of the plan.
Once that’s done, the county plans to close off the bridge lane — possibly in February — for several weeks to gauge the resulting congestion. If the project remains on track, the county will finish its design, come up with a better cost estimate and put the work out for bid. Construction could begin as early as this summer and be finished by early 2017.
Tecklenburg on Monday unveiled his ethics plan.
He said he was putting time at this critical point in the race into the plan because “we need to address trust in government.”
The plan includes prohibiting senior staff from working with companies that do business with the city for at least a year after leaving their jobs; requiring the mayor and senior appointed staff to release a statement of economic interest, including their personal income tax returns; making a registry of all city disbursements and all staff salaries and benefits packages available online; and creating an ethics review panel.
“We need city government to be an open book,” Tecklenburg said. “We need to take accountability and transparency to a new and higher level for the city of Charleston.”
Reach Diane Knich at (843) 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.