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County Council, September 27, 2007

Road wise projects move further along
Request for $60 million from State Infrastructure Bank
Warwick Jones

Discussion over Roadwise initial bond projects took up most of yesterday’s meetings. Council, meeting as the Planning and Public Works Committee, listened to presentations by Roadwise staff on proposals for four of the projects approved in the half-cent sales tax referendum. Design and engineering studies have been completed. Approval for the construction and right way phases were being sought. The projects to be discussed were;

• Intersection of Folly Road and Maybank Highway
• Palmetto Commerce Parkway
• Improvement on US17 and SC 61 intersection
• Improvements on Harborview Road.

Following a request by Council Chairman member Scott, the presentation on the Palmetto Commerce Parkway was deferred.

The recommendations by Roadwise staff followed a number of public hearings and it was evident that staff had made a strong effort to incorporate the wishes of the public. It also seemed that staff did not always share the public’s view and some recommendations lacked enthusiasm.

No easy passage
Council members did not give the recommendations an easy passage and indeed, the suggested improvements to Harborview Road were criticized by Councilmember Thurmond who suggested some amendments.

Without diagrams, we lack the skill to show the proposals. Viewers can see the proposals by going to the County web site and calling up "Agendas", shown on the right hand side of the page ( press here) But note, the agenda is left on the Council web site for only a few days to be subsequently replaced by the agenda for the next Council meeting. It is possible the proposals will be posted on the Roadwise site.

Problem with pedestrian crossing
We note that in relation to improvements on the US17 and SC 61 intersection, most discussion related to the proposed pedestrian crossing. It was convoluted and may raise some safety issues – i.e. pedestrians will need patience to cross it. There was consideration of erecting a bridge over the highways for pedestrians but this required further study. Council members also noted the major bikeway terminated by the highways and they looked in some way to ameliorate the impediment to cyclists and walkers.

No right-hand turn off North Shore Drive
In relation to Harborview Road, some Council members took issue with Roadwise staff. In the interest of safety and utility, Councilmember Thurmond thought that only a right-hand turn should be permitted off North Shore Drive onto the Harborview Road. The restriction that a two lane bridge imposed on traffic on that part of Harborview Road was discussed as was the diversion of traffic onto other side streets with the prohibition of right turns off North Shore Drive. Council member Thurmond moved that the recommendation of Roadwise be accepted with the condition that there be no right-hand turns off North Shore Drive, that after Mikell Drive there would not be three lanes, and that there should be no traffic signals. Council agreed.

$60 million sought from SIB

The Finance Committee, after some cynical discussion, agreed to allow the County to approach the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) to discuss a possible $60 million grant. It seems that there is $60 million available and there is only a day left to make an application (Why there was such short notice was not evident from the discussion)

Staff has suggested some projects that could be funded, or partially funded by such a grant. But Council members noted that there has been no public discussion of the projects. And how could we commit the County to these projects?

It seems that there is no commitment and that Council has the opportunity to change the projects if it desired. The vote was really to allow the County to engage the SIB to discuss a $60 million grant.

Waiting for the State Legislature
Council deferred voting on appointments to a number of agencies because of a State Supreme Court case relating to the Parks and Recreation Services Commission in Richland County. This decision has throw open the question as to whether the State Delegations have the right to choose members of certain boards and commissions instead of County Councils.

Council agreed to defer the appointments until the end of January 2008 in the hope that the State Legislature would take action to clear up the uncertainty. If there were no decision by that time, presumably the Council will act as if it retained the powers of appointment.

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