All this talk about a bike lane on the Ashley River Bridge has had some people worried about the city's priorities.
In other words, what about the problem with the boat lane on the Crosstown? Which, when it rains, is all of them.
Well, here's a news flash: The city has quietly put together a plan to pay for the $154 million flooding problem on the Septima Clark Expressway. And it might just work.
South Carolina Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge told The Post and Courier this week that he supported the idea of using state money to fix the Crosstown, which was welcome. But as it turns out, the city is way ahead of him.
City engineers, finance types and lawyers have an application to the State Infrastructure Bank in the works, and it already has tentative City Council approval. They have broken down the monumentally expensive project -- the biggest in Charleston history -- into several smaller chunks with funding from a variety of sources.
"I really think we've got a way to do it," Mayor Joe Riley said Thursday.
The city already has applied for a grant that would provide $12.5 million to the project, and should get an answer in October. By then, the application for $88 million from the Infrastructure Bank should be on its way.
The city wants to use tax-increment financing districts and extend the current 5 percent SCE&G franchise fee to build up matching funds that will qualify it for all this state and federal money. Riley says the city would ultimately pay about 43 percent of the cost -- but that's a lot better than 100 percent.
The important, and heartening, thing here is significant city movement on this problem. City Councilman James Lewis calls it "the most important issue in the city," and he's right. West Ashley Councilman Aubry Alexander says a bike lane is important, but he isn't sure the current plan is the way to go. And apparently about 60 percent of his constituents feel the same way. Both Lewis and Alexander say there is no way a bike lane trumps the flooding problem, that the project would be roadkill if it got in the way of the city's top priority.
"The Crosstown, without a doubt, needs to be fixed," Alexander says, "and I think we're on the right path."
Beginning of the end?
For all the justified griping about this lingering problem, the politics of some critics have exacerbated the issue.
A few years ago, the city had Congressman Jim Clyburn on board with a plan to bring in federal money to fix this federal road. And then "earmark" became a dirty word, and Clyburn couldn't get it done.
So the city has gotten creative, and may finally be on the road to getting this disaster fixed. Which is better than using the Crosstown for the port and letting cars drive across the harbor when it silts in, thanks to Sen. Jim "Earmarks Are Evil" DeMint.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end for our long local nightmare.
Because finally, someone is going to fix the Crosstown.
Follow Brian Hicks on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.