Charleston City Council began looking at a plan Tuesday night to convert Coming and St. Philip streets to allow two-way traffic. Currently, Coming Street is a two-lane street that only allows vehicles to travel north, while St. Philip Street is a two-lane street that becomes one-way southbound below Calhoun Street.
The idea behind the lane reversals would be to slow down automobile traffic on both downtown streets and make them safer for bicycle and pedestrian traffic, which is especially heavy in the blocks near the College of Charleston campus. But during the public-input session at the City Council meeting, a CofC official said that he and many other members of the administration opposed the plan for precisely the same reason it was formulated: safety concerns.
"We have well over 15,000 students and staff in a very concentrated area," said CofC Executive Vice President for Business Affairs Steve Osborne. "Two-way traffic will bring more cars into the area. It's already a congested area." Osborne said that a study on the topic, presented by the Traffic and Transportation Committee, did not take pedestrians and bicyclists into consideration (the City Paper plans to obtain a copy of that study today and determine whether Osborne's claim is true). Stephanie Hunt, chairperson of the bicycle advocacy group Charleston Moves, also said that the study had not factored in bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
At the meeting, residents who lived north of Calhoun Street (including representatives from Radcliffeborough and Cannonborough-Elliotborough) spoke in favor of the plan, while residents south of Calhoun Street (including representatives from Harleston Village) spoke against it. Tim Muller, vice president of the Cannonborough-Elliotborough Neighborhood Association, said of CofC students, "I think they can learn to look both ways."
Robert Gurley, assistant director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, supported the idea of making Coming Street two-way north of Calhoun. South of Calhoun, he said the city should keep both St. Philip and Coming streets one-way while closing off a lane in each to be used strictly by bicyclists and pedestrians. City Council member Mike Seekings also proposed designating a lane of St. Philip Street for bike-and-pedestrian use.
Tim Keane, the city's director of planning, preservation, and sustainability, said the entire purpose of converting the streets to two-way traffic would be to make them safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. He added that one-way streets were a legacy of 1940s-era urban planning, when authorities "decided we needed one-way streets to get out."
City Council did not yet have a bill to vote on regarding the lane reversals, but they did vote to approve the report from the Traffic and Transportation Committee.
In another traffic-related matter, the council discussed a plan to set aside the inside lane of traffic around Hampton Park for bicyclists and pedestrians. The loop formed by Mary Murray Drive is already a popular destination for runners and bicyclists.
There was relatively little debate over the merits of a lane closure by Hampton Park, although Council member William Dudley Gregorie said the plan would likely run into the same obstacle a similar plan met in 1993, when the Council determined that it would be unsafe to set apart a bike-and-pedestrian lane unless it was set apart from car traffic by a physical barrier of some sort.
City Council also approved Mayor Riley's appointments to several design and zoning boards. The following people were appointed or reappointed:
Board of Architectural Review• Reappointed: Erica Harrison, attorney (2012-2016 term); Phyllis Ewing, general public (2012-2016)
Design Review Board• Appointed: Jeff A. Johnston, architect (2012-2016); Erica K. Chase, engineer (2012-2016)
Board of Zoning Appeals - Zoning• Reappointed: Samuel H. Altman, general public (2012-2015); Sandra Campbell, general public (2012-2015); Margaret Smith, merchant (2012-2015); Russel Rosen, engineer (2012-2015)
Board of Zoning Appeals - Site Design• Reappointed: Frances Waite, horticulturist, forester, arborist (2012-2015)
Recreation Commission• Brad Nettles (chairman), David Bendt, Ward Irvin, Keith Kirkland, Angelo Anastopoulo, Keith Wilson, John Scott, Shawn Powell