The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
Transportation Advisory Board meeting March 22
Differences resolved with County and Consultant
Board tackles policy, and listens to Mount Pleasant's lamentWarwick Jones
The differences between the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB), the County and the consultant seem to have been resolved. The Chairman of the TAB stated that he had met with senior staff of the County, principles of LPA, the consultant, and the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the County Council. Contrary to that indicated by a member of Staff at the last TAB meeting, the "draft" Comprehensive Transportation Plan, now available on the County's web site will not be the "final" report. It will be amended to effect correction of errors, and the inclusion of other material that was agreed to at the meeting attended by the TAB Chairman and deputy Chairman, representatives of the consultant, and County staff late last year.
Draft to be corrected and amended
As before, there will be two parts to the County's Comprehensive Transport Plan. Part A will be the amended edition of the "draft" report now on the County web site. It will contain 25-year and 5-year plans. Inter alia, it will address policy issues, maintenance and metrics, current problems and their solution. Part B will be for the comments of the TAB on the Comprehensive Plan. At the end of the prior meeting, it seemed likely that Part B would be very weighty. But now that the consultant has promised full cooperation with the TAB, it is likely that many of the suggestions of members will be incorporated in Part A. There may not be much left to include in Part B. However, as the consultant pointed out, there may be a number of systemic issues, the solutions to which may be subjective. So there certainly remains scope for differences between the consultant and the TAB.
With the TAB back on the same track as the consultant, most of the remaining time was devoted to discussion of policy. Board member Sinkler spent some time piecing together the comments from the last meeting into some discussable format. Accordingly, the TAB discussed and voted on the following; (In the interests of clarity, we made same changes to the wording of the issues before the TAB, though hopefully not the content)
• The TAB should make policy
Overall, the members agreed that the board should advise on policy. But some, like Board member Hipp, were concerned about going too far. In Mr. Hipp's view, the TAB was more watchdog than anything else, to restrain the proceeds of the sales tax turning into a slush fund.
• Encourage the development of an integrated transportation data base.
The repository for this information was to be CHATS. However, it was noted that CHATS already is collecting much of the data that the TAB would like to collect. How much more should it collect and how much detail? These questions were not answered, though a representative of CHATS said that the quality of the data could be improved.
• Procurement should be on the best value basis.
We may not have got the wording right on this issue. Essentially what the TAB was trying to do was to ensure that a contract was awarded largely on the quality of the work and not only price. We're not sure that the TAB should've spent much time addressing this issue. The County already has a system in place that is designed to conform to both state and federal regulations.
• Advocate traffic impact studies for new developments
As one member noted, this can only relate to the unincorporated areas of the County. Traffic impact studies of new developments are required by the major cities as Board members Pena and Cawley pointed out. These members represented the Cities of Charleston and North Charleston respectively.
• Encourage both incentive and fee-based programs that will help evaluate and mitigate development impact of transportation systems.
The subtleties of this one eluded us. Some of the TAB members, as developers, were not happy all about impact fees. This was not TAB venue, they said. However, the Board voted to adopt the measure though we wonder whether all understood what they were voting for.
• Encourage the County to develop a transportation model integrating all modes of transit.
Again, there was limited discussion. It seems it was the intent of members of the TAB to look beyond a bus service in dealing with the County's transportation problems. Earlier, the Chairman talked about using the waterways for transit services.
• Establish a pavement paving policy schedule.
Some drew attention to the fact that the CTC already had a policy and that it was unnecessary for the TAB to also have one. This was questioned by the Chairman, who said there needed to be some mechanism for dealing with the lengthy road paving backlog. At this time, Board member Sinkler had some trouble deciphering her notes, and was being pressed by the need to allow time for Public comments. The issue of policy will be taken up again at the next meeting.
Mount Pleasant voices ire with Comprehensive Plan
Mr. Mac Burdette, the administrator of the Town of Mount Pleasant has a reputation for not mincing words. After his address to the TAB, we can only say it's a deserved reputation. He read from a letter written by the Mayor of Mount Pleasant to all of the TAB members. The letter noted that only $70 million had been set aside in the draft Comprehensive Transportation Plan for the completion of the Johnny Dodds Blvd. This contrasted with an estimated cost of $110 million. In his letter, the Mayor stated that Council, when Barrett Lawrimore was Chairman, agreed that the sales tax would fund the whole cost of the Johnny Dodds Blvd. The draft Comprehensive Plan indicated that the $40 million balance of funding would be obtained from the SCDOT. It was indeed possible that funding would be obtained from this government body but it was by no means certain. Full provision should be made from the sales tax funds even though there was intent to get external funding.
Referendum success had little to do with the creation of the GAB and TAB
Mr. Burdette also commented that Mount Pleasant had strenuously supported the sales tax. It did this in the belief that it would share fully in the proceeds. If it had not been for the support of Mount Pleasant and other municipalities, the sales tax referendum would've failed. In Mr. Burdette's opinion, the creation of the TAB and the GAB had nothing to do with the success of the referendum. By implication, the favorable result reflected the efforts of the municipalities.
Administration costs too high
Mr. Burdette went on also to say, the $65 million allocated to administration in the Comprehensive Plan was far too high. This amount needed to be broken down into its components and each component scrutinized. The matter of the administration cost was noted early in the meeting. The principal of LPA, Robert Probst, commented that the amount included more than LPA's administration costs. It also reflected County expenses, bond counsel and other items. He promised a breakdown even before Mr. Burdette made his request.
Where is the written agreement?
The TAB chairman took issue with Mr. Burdette in relation to an agreement with Mount Pleasant. He had had discussions with the Chairman of the County Council and had been told no agreement exists. Mr. Burdette said it was a verbal agreement. Such agreements are normal amongst politicians, he said. And clearly, he and the Mayor of Mount Pleasant expected the agreement to be honored.
It won't be up to the TAB to make the final decision on the funding of Johnny Dodds. This will lie with the Council. But we suspect the TAB will not bust itself in supporting Mount Pleasant in its request.
A number of citizens spoke at the meeting. All were from West Ashley and expressed concern about the diagram and comments relating to the intersection of Maybank Highway and Folly Road. They were contrary to that indicated at the recent Public Hearing. The citizens were assued by the consultant that the drawing was only conceptual and that it was not an indication of what was planned. The conceptual sketch would be amended, the consultant said.