By Kristin Hackler
On November 19, a group of thirty or so citizens arrived at West Ashley High School for the sixth of seven public meetings held around the tri-county area by the Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester County of Governments (BCDCOG) to give their input on the five year update of the Long Range Transportation Plan.
According to the BCDCOG, the Long Range Transportation Plan sets priorities for spending federal funds on transportation projects in the Charleston region, including highways, roads, bridges, transit facilities and service, bicycle and pedestrian routes, and related enhancements.
Representatives were present from the islands, including the majority of the new Seabrook Island Town Council (Mayor Holtz and Councilmen Sam Reed, Terry Ahern and Jerry Cummin); Wendy Kulick, Barbara Winslow and Dr. Paul Roberts from Kiawah Island; and Sam Brownlee and Rich Thomas from the Johns Island Council.
The meeting opened with a brief presentation on the trending direction of transportation in Charleston County, including more cluster-like, walkable approaches to development as opposed to the former linear “strip mall” format; the movement of people as opposed to cars in the form of mass transit, biking and walking; and the growing population of the tri-county area, which is projected to grow from 550,000 (2000 data) to 900,000 in 2030.
Participants were then asked to draw their suggestions on provided maps, and members of the BCDCOG staff walked between the tables, answering questions and writing down ideas.
A short survey was also available which BCDCOG asked all of the participants to fill out, reminding everyone that the survey will be available on line at www.BCDCOG.com for the next few months and encouraging everyone to ask their friends and neighbors to fill out the online survey and provide their valuable input.
Mayor Holtz was adamant that “some kind of Johns Island transportation plan is needed”, pointing out that while Johns Island has a development plan, there’s nothing in place for future transportation needs. “It was a very general, conceptual meeting,” said Holtz. “We just need to get a plan and agree on it.” He was happy to note, however, that the representatives from the Johns Island Council seemed to be in general agreement about the 526 extension option with an exit on Johns Island, and the need for a Cross Island Parkway. The representatives from both Kiawah and Seabrook made it a point to emphasize the need for the Cross Island Parkway/Johns Island Greenway, drawing it onto most of the maps provided.
Rich Thomas of the Johns Island Council thought the meeting was helpful, but remarked that it needed to be better facilitated. “It needs to be a more managed process,” said Thomas.
Rich Burns, Senior Planner for the Long Range Transportation Plan, was happy with the evening’s turn out, noting that there were a lot of interested citizens and was pleased with the feedback they received. “There will be more opportunities to comment in the future in a more formal setting,” he noted, pointing out that updates will be provided on the BCDCOG.com website.