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Apr 01 2011

Op Ed: The argument for building the Greenway now

An example of how the Greenway could appear, if built.

By Dr. Paul Roberts

Something badly needs to be done about safety on Johns Island roads. There are currently an average of 10 accidents per week and six deaths per year. Half of the deaths involve hitting a tree. This is the consequence of roads built in the early part of the last century, to the lower design standards that existed at that time.

Congestion is also a problem. Some say there are no congestion problems on Johns Island. That is not true. Congestion levels of traffic are reached at much lower volumes per lane on one-lane rural roads with inadequate widths, no shoulders, and uncontrolled access than they are on six-lane freeways with wide lanes, unobstructed shoulders and access control. And, traffic congestion on these roads increases the problems with safety.

There is a solution to the safety and congestion facing Johns Island. The two feasible alternatives are: 1) widen Main Road and Bohicket Road, or 2) build a new road across the largely uninhabited center of Johns Island.

Widening Main and Bohicket Roads reduces congestion on both roads, but fails to solve the serious left-turn problem at the intersection of Main Road with Route 17. If instead I-526 is built, it is so much shorter for most trips that the traffic which is currently congesting Main and Bohicket will divert to I-526, eliminating congestion on Main Road.

This diverted traffic exiting I-526 at the northernmost interchange will then seeks new paths across the island to its final destination. If both I-526 and Main Road are improved, this “cross island” traffic creates new congestion on Murrywood and Brownswood Roads.

Furthermore, widening Main and Bohicket has a number of negative impacts on Johns Islanders. These fall into three major categories:

1) The loss of many of the roadside Live Oaks and the destruction of much of the beautiful and unique tree canopy along this historic route.

2) The negative impact on the large number of properties along Main and Bohicket Roads and the consequent disruption of the lives affected.

3) The building of almost 10 miles of the project as a five lane road would completely alter the character and feel of the island.

One would expect safety to be improved by building a five-lane road. However, the increase in traffic volumes and the danger posed by higher speeds, risky left turns against oncoming traffic and unexpected turns onto the roadway from driveways along the route makes widening Main and Bohicket unacceptable as a solution to the problem. In fact, safety could be even worse than it is today.

A better solution is building the Sea Islands Greenway. Not only would building a new road down the center of the Island incur half the cost of widening Main and Bohicket, but it has better performance measures in almost every category. The LPA report shows that the Greenway can be built so that in addition to safety, it has a number of public amenities such as a bike path, as well as walking and equestrian trails with attendant picnic areas. Also, if it were placed in a right-of–way that is buffered by conservation lands it would control access to the roadway and discourage the development of strip malls and new housing developments.

The Greenway should be built now during this era of historically low property prices and construction costs! If the road is not built now, urban growth and development will continue and it will be more disruptive and more expensive to build in the future.

The scenarios run through the CHATS computer model by the LPA study team show that though the Greenway alternative does not, by itself, totally eliminate traffic congestion on Main Road; it returns both Bohicket and Maybank to quiet country roads. It also prevents River Road from being overrun with the continued growth in travelers seeking an alternative to Maybank and Bohicket. And all of this can be done at the lowest cost of any of the alternatives studied.

The County Council should not wait to see what happens with the I-526 extension. The LPA study indicated that the Sea Islands Greenway will relieve congestion and improve safety on Maybank, Bohicket and River Roads whether the I-526 extension is built or not. It recommended that the County Council develop a Purpose and Need Statement for the Sea Island Greenway for inclusion in the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments’ (BCDCOG) Long Run Transportation Plan (LRTP), making it eligible for federal funds and further assessment as a priority project. The Sea Island Greenway improves traffic safety on Johns Island in a way that no other alternative can and it should be allowed to move forward.

For more information, visit www.supporthegreenway.org or contact Dr. Paul Roberts through www.supportthegreenway.org.

7 comments

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  1. Guy Leonard

    It seems every time road construction takes place for safety and/or convenience reasons life on Johns Island becomes less safe and inconvenience rises. Years ago a realtor advised me not to consider Johns Island because it was inconvenient. I chose to ignore her. After completion of the two new bridges Johns Island became more accessible and now, according to Dr. Roberts, less convenient, less safe and more congested. Yet, he finds reason for even more “improvements”. Let’s go back to the swing bridges over the Ashley River.

    Guy Leonard
    Johns Island, SC

  2. Mary Lynn

    Has anyone bothered to ask the people of Johns Island whether or not THEY want this asphalt swath through the middle of their island so the residents of Kiawah and Seabrook can get to town faster? When anyone purchased property on either island, did you not take into consideration how long it takes to get off Johns Island? Apparently not, and now you want to destroy the very reasons you moved here – natural beauty, remoteness, peace and quiet, etc. In exchange, you want to build a New Jersey Turnpike South right through the middle of Johns Island to open it up for commercial and residential development. As for safety, whose statistics are being quoted and whose safety are you worried about? If you don’t care about the wishes of Johns Islanders, you surely have no great concern about their safety.

  3. ed carraway

    This article is disingenuous. For example, in describing the alternative to the Greenway (widening Main Road) you say

    “The building of almost 10 miles of the project as a five lane road would completely alter the character and feel of the island.”

    Main Road and Maybank roads have already been developed. With landscaping, they would actually be improved by pursuing the alternative to the Greenway.

    On the other hand, the Greenway and associated Mark Clark Expressway, would desecrate an incredible amount of pristine wetland and mar Johns Islands natural beauty and character forever.

  4. Tim McCoy

    There are many viable solutions between our current “problem” and a real problematic solution aka 526 Greenway for God. The new Maybank rd bridge was never finished. Notice James Island at Riverland Terrace and Maybank during high traffic there is no back up. Cross the river where the two lanes of traffic are forced into one lane and it is a huge waste of time and fuel , and unnecessary. It has been 7 years since the $40 million dollar bridge was finished and we are still waiting for a couple of new lanes and turn lanes and the traffic would flow so, so, much better. We only need approximately 7/10ths of a mile of improvements to move that traffic. There is plenty of room and obviously plenty of money. That is a 4 lane with bike and pedestrian path forced into two lanes at a light. Obviously no one is looking at the bigger picture. If ther is an actual person in charge of the project and planning, he or she is failing miserably. We need a competent,conscious individual. The 17 and main intersection does needs attention before all the land has been developed and that problem could easily be resolved with a two way ramp to and from 17 with merge lanes and two additional lanes to Maybank rd.
    Neither Maybank or Limehouse bridge has been utilized to really help the traffic congestion beyond avoiding delays from marine traffic.

  5. Tim McCoy

    I think it is likely a matter of no one in charge rather than any kind of conspiracy , but it is interesting that no project has been completed that actually provides a real solution to Johns Islander’s traffic problems. We have waited too patiently on relief and we have gotten approximately $100 million in two bridges that are funtioning like their two lane predecessors. And every year we are told the 526 “God’s Greenway” is the only real solution. OK now its up to us, how stupid are we. We have watched two fast moving lanes disappear into one very slow lane FOR 7 YEARS!! We watch or glare at those in the right merge lane while we sit and sit in miserable long, hot lines waiting like idiots because we trust some government asshole is taking care of this. Obviously they are not! The amount of hours and fuel collectively wasted sitting in needless traffic is inexcusable. Anyone involved with the project, or planning or highway construction for the project needs to be unceremoniously dismissed. Then hire someone with actual knowledge of planning efficent roadways and highways.

  6. Charlestonian.

    The arrogance of this clown is amazing. Yeah, let’s just carve up what’s left of John’s Island for the convenience of him and his pals. You knew what the roads were when you bought property there. Quit trying to destroy the character of Johns Island so you won’t be late for your tee time.

  7. Miami Concrete

    How a lot of an appealing guide, keep on producing far better half

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