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Transportation Advisory Board November 9

Bicycle and pedestrian paths top public wish list
Members of Board chide County Council
Warwick Jones, covering for Marc Knapp who is ill

The preliminary results of the public hearings on Transportation held over recent weeks show that bike and walk ways are the top priority of citizens when choosing targets for spending of sales tax monies. Interestingly, bike and walkways were top targets emerging from public hearings relating to Greenbelt spending.

LPA Group, the transportation consultant, stated that over 500 people attended the five public hearings it hosted. Attendees were asked to mark on maps improvements or changes they thought would be beneficial. They were also asked to fill in a simple questionnaire, giving their comments and ranking the importance of reasons for considering transportation projects. In various forms, the consultant collected 587 comments from the public. Some members of the public attended more than one of the meetings but the consultant had attempted to adjust for this.

"Environmental impact" first consideration
When prioritizing projects, the public indicated that "environmental impact" should be the first consideration. This was closely followed by consideration as to whether a project was "multi modal (multi purpose)", or allowed "completion of existing infrastructure". Of the alternatives on the list, the lowest ranking was whether a project was of "regional benefit".

Specific wish list puts bike and pathways on top
The consultant also attempted to break down responses in the geographic groupings of where the respondents lived. Those residing in the major metropolitan areas of Mount Pleasant, West Ashley and North Charleston all ranked bicycles and pedestrian paths as the top priority. In North Charleston, 41% of respondents made this choice while in Mount Pleasant and West Ashley it was 34% and 33 % respectively. In Mc Lennanville, the top priority was "road repairs". The Consultant said that it hoped to more fully capture the views of resident in other parts of the County in the second series of public hearings

Second consideration more parochial
The second priority or residents in the respective communities varied and took on a more parochial flavor. For North Charleston, it was essentially "drainage" while for Mount Pleasant it was "roundabouts and flyovers"- obviously reflecting changes to Highway 17 under consideration. For West Ashley, it was "the extension of I -526" with respondents evenly balanced between completion, and maintaining the status quo.

The Consultant promised a fuller preliminary result before the end of the year. This report will also provide more detail on locations suggested by citizens as to where spending should be directed. The Consultant also will host more public workshops in the New Year to gage reaction to the preliminary report and take comments from citizens in other areas.

GAB Chairman asks for more communication with TAB
The Chairman of the Greenbelt Advisory Board (GAB), Ms. Louise Maybank also spoke to the TAB. She noted that public hearings relating Greenbelts had highlighted the public desire for bike and walkways. It was the opinion of the GAB that its sister organization should be aware of this. There should be discussion between GAB and TAB members to consider such an issue as it clearly fell also into the domain of the TAB. Ms. Maybank was probably pleasantly surprised at the results of the Transportation public hearings which could have only enhanced the warm reception by the TAB to her suggestion.

County draws flak over tardy consultation
A major part of yesterday meeting was taken up with a presentation by the County Administrator, Mr. Roland Windham, relating to the proposed submission to the State Infrastructure Bank. The submission was for $720 million to complete I -526 and the road linking the proposed new port in North Charleston to I-26. None of the submission should have been news as it had already been covered in the local media and indeed the Council has already approved the application. Some TAB members were not slow to show their ire that the TAB had not been consulted in any way about the submission. Why were they ignored, they asked?

Mr. Windham made deep apologies and said that the way it came about allowed little time for consultation. It was not the intention of the Council to ignore the TAB. The Council had to meet a tight deadline and there was little time left between the time the Cities and the Country reached agreement to bring the TAB into the loop. But he also suggested that both projects were far from a done deal and still had "hoops to jump through".

A reminder of the role of the GAB
Board member Hayward and Chairman Knott both spoke of the role of the TAB as an oversight body and reflected on the ordinance that created it. Chairman Knott opined that the passage of the sales tax referendum owed much to the creation of the TAB and GAB, to assure voters that funds from the sales tax would be properly spent. These two major projects were effectively now approved by Council before any consideration by the TAB. He also noted that the decision had been made before consideration of results of the public hearings. Both Board members Heyward and Chairman Knott spoke about the uncertainty as to whether the majority of citizens wanted I-525 completed. Chairman Knott also warned the County that if citizens saw the TAB ignored in the approval process, it was very possible they will refuse to vote favorably again in a sales tax referendum relating to transportation (and we would add greenbelts).

Chairman Knott and other members also questioned the funding for the Port access road. To some extent this reflected confusion over the complicated nature of the funding and submission. The access road should not even be considered for funding by sales tax money, it was said. The road was a State or Port Authority problem. As Mr. Windham said, it is not being funded by sales tax money; it is just part of the process. He did not say last night but it was said in Council and Finance Committee meetings, that if all goes according to plan, the application will save the County about $80 million in sales tax funding. The Bank will pick up all funding for I-526 whereas before, the sale tax was marked for covering some of the funding. We also suspect that some members were confused with nature of funding. For most of us, an application to a Bank is for a loan that has to be repaid. In the case of this bank, the funds are a grant.

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