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Transportation Advisory Board, June 21

First steps to rank projects in Comprehensive Transportation Plan
Coastal Conservation League seeks action on I-26
Warwick Jones

With the completion of the Comprehensive Transportation Plan and its presentation to Council, the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) could have expected a long rest. But it won't be able to put its feet up for another few weeks. County Council asked the TAB to assess and rank some of the projects in the Comprehensive Transportation Plan according to the criteria it defined and reported in the Plan. The meeting yesterday was the first of possibly 3 or 4 to do Council's bidding. It may not be important but we are not sure that the TAB is proceeding correctly.

Council's request
At the time of the presentation of the Plan to Council, Council member Condon requested that Staff. LPA, the Consultant, and the TAB, meet to apply the TAB-defined criteria to the projects in the Plan and rank them. The bonded projects in the Plan were excluded from this request. Council endorsed this request. However it seems there was some confusion as to what Council member Condon said and what Council agreed to. The differences were minor and related to the order and participation of each of the entities making the review.

Chairman Knott of the TAB attempted to clarify what Council member Condon requested and to thereby define the task before the TAB. He said the projects were to be reviewed by the Staff, the Consultant and a committee of the TAB. The results of this study would be submitted to the TAB for its review and presumably thereafter to Council.

But TAB to steer a slightly different course
Did we get the description quite right? It doesn't matter. At the end of yesterday's meeting, the TAB decided to do its own review at a full meeting of the Board. Members were asked to study the projects in the Comprehensive Transportation Plan and to meet in a week's time to assess and rank the projects with the help of the consultant. But not only would the appropriate projects in the Comprehensive Plan be reviewed, so would some that are not in the Plan.

Fine tuning of application of criteria
Much of yesterday's meeting was taken up with a discussion of the 8 criteria that the TAB defined for assessing and ranking projects. A subcommittee of the TAB met before the meeting and drew up a chart to assist scoring. Each project will be assessed and scored with a 1, 3 or 5. These will be only scores possible as the subcommittee wanted to keep the system simple. A project that met all or most of a criterion would receive a 5, one that met none or little of a criterion, would receive 1. The scores for each criterion would be added to give total to determine the ranking.

There was some discussion as to the weighting that should be given to each criterion in determining the total score, but no decision was made.

Coastal Conservation League asks TAB to look at I-26
Also before the TAB yesterday was a letter from the Coastal Conservation League (CCL) requesting that a study and improvements be made to I-26 in the Neck area. We don't have a copy of the letter but from discussion on the TAB, the study and improvement were projected to cost $20 million. The need for study stemmed from the large increase in traffic that was likely in future from the many developments in the area, in particular Magnolia and the new Port.

The cost figures were too much for Board member Smith. He refused to even contemplate spending any part of $20 million on improvements without some sort of study. And nor would he contemplate paying for a study solely out of Sales Tax funds when clearly, other parties that would benefit from any improvement to I-26 should make some contribution - particularly the State Ports Authority, North Charleston and the City of Charleston.

Study would cost $5 million
The representative of the CCL stated that she thought the study would cost about $5 million and the balance would be for improvements. The CCL sought the TAB approval to get the issue on the table and to get the attention of those who would or should be involved.

More discussion next week
There was general skepticism as to a price tag of only $15 million for improvements.
We suspect that members were also confused about the issue. There had been no time to prepare and although there may have been sympathy for some study, it was not a request from the County or a municipality. Notwithstanding Board member Welch asked that the subject be put on the agenda for the following meeting.

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