James Island and Charleston residents gathered Friday along Harbor View Road, toting signs opposing the county's $18 million road-widening project. Roughly 30 activists picketed alongside the road and where Charleston County intends to construct a path for pedestrians and cyclists. For many, the 10-foot-wide multi-use path will take up entirely too much green space.
Becky Smith, a James Island resident and architect, says Friday's gathering effectively illustrated the project's magnitude and resonated with many residents. "The plans aren't easily understood on paper," says Smith. "This demonstration helped show just how close the 'improvements' will be to the residents' homes and how wide the multi-use paths will be."
In an effort to reduce traffic and increase roadway safety, Charleston County RoadWise (CCRW) plans to embark on a project that will widen Harbor View Road from 30 feet to 39 feet, stretching from North Shore Drive to Mikell Drive, as well as construct a 10-foot-wide multi-use path, an opposing five-foot-wide sidewalk, a two-foot-wide curb, two gutters, and a four-foot-wide strip of grass on each side of the road. The county also plans on reconfiguring traffic patterns along the road, as well as installing a new drainage system.
Robin Hardin, James Island resident and avid cyclist, says the paths are hazardous. "Pedestrians and cyclists will be in danger as they use the newly provided bike path and multi-use path without any safe points of crossing Harbor View Road to get to the other side," says Hardin.
According to James Island resident Susan Milliken, RoadWise is neglecting the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' safety regulations for multi-use paths. "This multi-use path will intersect over 60 private driveways and intersections," says Milliken, who believes a five-foot-wide bike lane is a suitable alternative. "This is a very dangerous situation."
Charleston County project manager Molli LeMin says numerous residents expressed interest toward multi-use paths, however. "We went through a public involvement process that lead to the implementation of brand-new multi-use paths," says LeMin. "The 10-foot-wide path will accommodate cyclists and pedestrians."
According to James Armstrong, director of the Transportation Department for RoadWise, there are misconceptions about the project, particularly when it comes to the width of the new road.
"A lot of people think the road is being widened to 66 ft. with hot asphalt," says Armstrong, who believes many Harbor View Road activists are unaware of the project's design elements.
Armstrong also notes the road's current width is measured at 30 feet, a different figure than the 26-foot measurement used by Harbor View Road activists. "Our surveyors went out there and that's the width they came up with," says Armstrong.
According to James Island resident Garrett Milliken, a blueprint, provided by RoadWise, Armstrong is wrong. "If you do the math, it clearly adds up to 26 feet," says Milliken, referring to his blueprint measurement. "We're right."
Armstrong says the blueprint's dimensions become distorted when magnified.
Charleston county officials plan to meet with the S.C. Department of Transportation on Aug. 4 to discuss design elements for the multi-use path, according to LeMin. The county plans to begin the project later this fall and expects to finish-up in spring 2014.
Hardin, for one, believes that more must be done to get the word out about the project. "As I found while carrying our 'Save These Trees' petition and knocking on neighbors' doors around Harbor View Road, most have no clue what is planned," she says. "I think if more James Island residents were aware of the current plans, there would be even a larger outcry and more activism to minimize the current plan."