By Ashley Barker
Published Feb. 26, 2014
The creation of a bike and pedestrian lane for residents of West Ashley to commute downtown brought a large audience to Charleston’s City Council meeting Tuesday night.
More than 30 citizens, many carrying signs promoting a shared-use path on the outermost inbound lane of the Allen Legare Bridge, spoke in favor of the proposed project.
After much discussion, City Council approved a memorandum of agreement that involves Charleston County and the S.C. Department of Transportation by an 8-5 vote. Council members Rodney Williams, James Lewis, Robert Mitchell, William Dudley Gregorie, Michael Seekings, Dean Riegel, Kathleen Wilson and Mayor Joe Riley voted for the new path, while council members Gary White, Perry Waring, Aubrey Alexander, William Moody and Marvin Wagner were against it.
The new bike and pedestrian lane will eliminate one lane of automobile traffic, which was one of the reasons council members cited for voting against it. City officials showed a design for the area that includes adding an extra turning lane for Bee Street at the Lockwood Boulevard intersection, which they anticipate will decrease congestion.
Hernan Pena, director of traffic and transportation for the city, said the reduction of a car lane will add four seconds to the travel time on S.C. Highway 61 at Wesley Drive to Lockwood Drive and would reduce their average speed from 38 mph to 37 mph. It would add six seconds to the U.S. 17 commute and 13 seconds to the Folly Road commute, according to Pena.
He said the decrease in the amount of lane changes — or weaving — and speed reduction would actually be safer for drivers.
Members of Coastal Cyclists, Charleston Moves and a local synagogue spoke in favor of the project, along with doctors from the Medical University of South Carolina who encouraged measures that improve the health of citizens. A professor at the College of Charleston also said the new lane would make it safer to commute by bike to work.
Wagner said he was uncomfortable with the project because it was not fully vetted out and there was a chance that people could get hurt. Alexander also was not supportive of the project because he believes the council “can do better.”
The S.C. DOT will now move forward with plans to design the new shared-use path. It will continue to maintain the existing bridge structure during and after the project, according to the memorandum of agreement.
Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.