Monday, November 21, 2011

Charleston Moves Nudges Harborview in a Better Direction

BIKE LANES RETURNED TO ROAD not complete yet...

Post & Courier photo

Just a couple short weeks ago, Charleston County Council voted to approve a new design for Harborview Road on James Island. It was a design that we were able to influence greatly – for the better.

We were called in by a group of James Island residents working as a new organization called “Will You Remember Our Trees?” This group was alarmed, obviously, about a new design for the road that would mean losing a significant number of the live oaks that line portions of the road. Charleston Moves recognized that Harborview Road could well be a key section of our Battery2Beach Route.

Lead by our own Chris Tullmann, we answered the call for help. When he brought the proposed road design to us, we found it to be a monster: almost 70 feet wide, with a two-way multi-use path on only one side of the road, speed limit increased from 40 to 45mph, a center (suicide) lane, and not a single crosswalk!

Harborview Road traffic clogs up with car traffic during certain periods of the day, especially when school is in session and the buses are stopping along the road. That was the main impetus for road re-construction. Our Suggested Alternative -- With RoundaboutsBut, based upon Chris’s work, we found no merit in the scope or details of the County’s plan. We found the road too wide, speeds too fast, the proposed bi-directional multi-use path unsafe. The absence of a single crosswalk betrayed the “cars-only” mindset of the engineers.

We intervened with letters to members of County Council and well-timed publicity suggesting that the project would do much more harm than good. In fact, we believe that the project, instead of helping connect many lovely neighborhoods on that portion of James Island, would instead create a monstrous concrete and asphalt “gash” through it, very likely to diminish property values, cheapen commerce and tarnish the overall quality of life.

Council re-examined the proposal and ultimately OK’d a vastly revised plan, with a shorter “suicide lane,” bike lanes restored to the sides of the road, and a sidewalk running among the trees on the south side of the roadway.

Though not everything we (and the Will You Remember Our Trees? group) had hoped for, it was a vast improvement over the plan considered earlier.

The “Remember Our Trees” group generously credits Charleston Moves with making it possible to re-open the discussion. They tell us that until we got involved, county officials were not listening.

We will be working for further improvements. Re-opening the discussion, essentially, means that the engineers go back to square one. There’ll be a new public comment meeting next year.

We believe that at least one roundabout (at Fort Johnson Road) would be a great improvement. Another one a short distance up Harborview from that point would be good, too. They could meter traffic and further shrink the length of the “suicide lane.” No plan on the table (not even the improved one) deals with the real choke point: the narrow causeway leading up to the James Island Creek, and the two-lane bridge over that body of water. Bike and pedestrian connectivity over that stretch of Harborview still hasn’t been dealt with. (The our concept, with two roundabouts, are pictured here.)

So, our work on the Harborview is not done.


Jessica said...

I'm very happy to see an improvement in the plan! I thought life on Harbor View was about to become a lot less enjoyable as a biker. Thanks for all you do.

Chris said...

Thank you for the support. We still have some time and work to do to make the plan even better. There will be a public meeting in February that we will need to have people support the bicycle and pedestrian updates to make sure they stick. With enough public support we can even make it better for all.

Anonymous said...

Cross walks across harbor view would be great. My kids could then walk/bike to school and friend's houses. Right now it's just too dangerous for them to cross such a busy road with a suicide lane.