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Proposed new port and access roads

Another access road proposed
Questions still remain about the impact of traffic
Warwick Jones, Editor

It was the final public meeting relating to the proposed new container terminal in North Charleston, and the access roads. Well over a hundred people were at the meeting and included representatives of the SC Department of Transport, consultants and contractors. It was hard to tell how many people were from the communities, but we estimate about 70 to 80.

Traffic concerns remain
Were community members happy with what they heard? The new proposed access road was probably better to their liking than any of those proposed previously. But traffic that the new port would generate was obviously still a major concern. It was not just the traffic within the communities, but also that on Interstate 26. One member of the audience suggested that the new port and associated traffic would lead to gridlock on that part of the Interstate from the access road intersection to the Ashley Phosphate intersection. Nobody took issue with him. And it didn't help that the Army Corps of Engineers had no traffic studies to put before the meeting.

Corps defines another truck access route
The Corps has yet to post anything on its web site showing the location of the newly proposed access road for trucks. However, the proposed road, designated 1d, follows closely 1c. Download file to see 1c and other previously proposed roads. The new proposed road joins I-26 slightly north of 1c and avoids existing housing. Talking with representatives of the Corps, it seems that the new road will not pass through any housing areas along its whole course. The only significant condemnation necessary will be the property owned by Southern Lumber, close to the Interstate. We are not sure but it seems that the whole operation of Southern Lumber will need to be relocated.

Truck access road location may not be an issue....
In some respects, the State Ports Authority (SPA) is lucky. Pollution and other factors restrained housing development in the Neck area over the last 50 years or so. With little residential development with which to contend, the routing of the major access road will be possible without much disruption. Indeed a major part of the route is over open land.

....but the other access road is
Disruption however, is more likely on the access road that is planned for light vehicles. Vehicles on this road were to feed into the community through Spuill Avenue and Hackerman Avenue. They will need now feed into Spruill and Stromboli Avenues. We are not in a position to say whether this represents an improvement. But certainly, a number of community members were opposed to this plan. A spokesman for the SCDOT said that it was originally proposed that Exits 217 and 218 on I-26 would be closed. The situation had been reconsidered and only Exit 218 would be closed. Again, this was thought to be disruptive by some.

Traffic on I-26 a major issue for some
But the more trenchant criticism came about the potential traffic on I-26. The Corps of Engineers estimated the daily traffic once the port that got up to capacity would be roughly 11,000 trips the day - roughly 5500 trips in and 5500 trips out. The majority of these trips represent trucks carrying containers. The peak hourly rate was estimated at 1100 trips, 550 in and 550 out. A member of the audience suggested that imposing an extra 1100 trucks an hour on I-26 in both the morning and afternoon peak hours could lead to chaos. He opined that the Interstate could not bear the added traffic. It would be necessary to add at least another two lanes and this would be very expensive.

Where are the traffic studies?
Nobody seemed to take issue with him. It also was surprising that no recent traffic studies were available for the public. Some surveys had been taken to reflect other developments anticipated in the area. And surveys to measure the impact of the Port and associated traffic were underway but not presently available. The SCDOT assured the meeting that a decision on the Port and access roads would not be made before these reports were available. This was not satisfying for those attending the meeting. How could they make a reasoned judgment as to what was likely to happen without the studies? Fair comment!

Port in City to be closed?
We are also interested to hear comment repeated by the Corps and the SCDOT that the Port will reach peak capacity only by 2020. Couldn't it be earlier? We note that the SPA operates a terminal in the City of Charleston with much smaller capacity. For efficiency reasons, is it possible that the SPA will consider its closure and shift volumes to the new port?

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