The artist's rendering (see below) of the proposed James Island route of Interstate 526 is just as cute as it can be.
It shows two wide lanes of traffic in each direction, separated by a lovely landscaped median. On the adjacent sidewalk, a couple is walking along the route, holding hands, while a kid passes them on his bicycle.
As propaganda goes, it's a masterpiece.
But there's something wrong with this picture: It ain't Charleston.
Nobody is tailgating anyone in this painting, no one is purposely preventing some poor soul from merging into traffic, and there's no city cop writing the kid a ticket for riding his bike on the sidewalk. How about a true representation of the former Most-Polite City in America?
Not one of the drivers is on his cell phone or texting, nobody is showing anyone their middle finger and there is an entire lane without a car in it. Hey, the people are even smiling -- while walking around in this heat?
C'mon, a little realism here.
And SCDOT expects us to believe this is how it's gonna be.
Off to the races
If you want to see what the newest proposal for finishing I-526 would really look like, cruise on down Hungryneck Boulevard in Mounte Pleasante (you know, the road behind Towne Centre).
That little road links I-526 to the Isle of Palms connector, and it's darned handy: Two lanes in each direction, divided by a nice median, requisite palm trees included.
Just like the proposed I-526 parkway, there are traffic lights on Hungryneck. And every day, between the signals, there are drag races -- what could be better?
There is little reason to believe that such a parkway would be any different on James Island. People have a tendency to not slow down when coming down those 65-foot evacuation bridges, and besides, this road would be part of the Mark Clark Expressway (hence the word expressway.)
It seems this most recent proposal for finishing I-526 was designed to placate those folks who don't want I-526 on the island. But it hasn't worked -- some people just don't want the road.
They'd better get used to it.
If you don't build it ...
That's not to say this is a bad idea. Anyone who drives down Folly Road or Savannah Highway can see that it is bumper-to-bumper far too often, and it's not going to get any better.
Some transportation studies say there'll be 50 percent more traffic on West Ashley roads in 20 years. Where are you going to put those cars? We can't send them back to Ohio.
If you're worried about the new roads leading to more development, then talk to the Planning Commission and tell them to add some reasonable new restrictions.
If you don't want to spend $500 million on the road, well, tough. Transportation money is just like the federal stimulus dollars: the money is sitting there and if we don't use it, someone else will.
This is not a case of "If you build it, they will come." They already are here, and we don't have anywhere to put them.
Perhaps they could get this show on the road if the SCDOT painted a more realistic picture -- one that shows what this place will look like without finishing I-526.