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County Council, Sept 1

Johns Islanders confused
A choice between two unpalatable options?
Warwick Jones

Some Johns Islanders were shaking their heads after last night’s Council meeting. It wasn’t in disbelief so much as confusion. The Islanders have battled hard and consistently to restrain development on the Island and preserve its rural ambience. But after last night’s meeting, it seems they may have lost some ground.

Two of the more recent battles were over widening Maybank Highway to 4 lanes, from the intersection with the proposed Interstate 526 near the Stono River Bridge to River Road, and the construction of the Cross Island Expressway.

“Pitchfork” compromise draws no criticism on Council
In public hearings, many Islanders opposed the original plan of the County to the Maybank Highway widening. The City of Charleston also opposed the widening. It proposed a “pitchfork” arrangement whereby Maybank Highway was left as it is and 2 roads constructed, one each side of the highway, to ease traffic flow entering and leaving the Highway and River Road. There was a lot of support for the City’s plan. Notwithstanding, a compromise was made by Council that agreed to the “pitchfork” arrangement and to widen Maybank by one lane only. The Finance Committee agreed to this last Thursday and last night Council gave its approval without any comment.

Widening Main and Bohicket Roads is “back on the table”
But the shaking heads at last night’s meeting were over the decision to add a study of widening Main and Bohicket Roads to 4 lanes from River Road southwards across Johns Island. This would be part of the study of the cost and viability of a cross island expressway, now known as the Sea Island Greenway. Many Islanders thought that the battles over these two issues – the widening of Bohicket and Main, and a cross island expressway - had been won and were surprised that the champions of either development had take to the field again. And from the tone of the discussion on Council, the ultimate decision may be to choose one over the other rather than reject both.

Council member Summey made the motion to accept the Finance Committee’s recommendation to approve the Maybank Highway/ River Road intersection development, the Sea Island Greenway Study, and Intersection Improvements on Johns Island. Council member Rawl said he was prepared to vote on these projects in a single vote, as proposed by Council member Summey, on the condition that Council also agreed to a study being made on the viability of widening Main and Bohicket Roads. He said he had a problem with the creation of another road across Johns Island. If the County were to study such a new road, it needs to also study widening Main and Bohicket Roads as an alternative. Implied was the widening of the roads and the destruction of some old oak trees may be preferable, considering all things, to dividing the Island with a new road.

Council readily agrees to amendment
Council member Thurmond has been champion on Council for the Expressway/Greenway. He enthusiastically endorsed Council member Rawl’s suggestion and exclaimed either a Greenway or the widening would be fine. Other Council members supported the proposed amendment and Council voted in favor for all the projects with only Council member Schweers opposed.

Kiawah and Seabrook Communities welcome decision
Not surprisingly, the Council vote brought out a number of citizens who spoke on the Johns Island traffic issues. The first were the mayors of Seabrook and Kiawah Island who offered their congratulation to Council. Their communities strongly support the initiatives for a cross island expressway or the widening of Bohicket and Main Roads. They had claimed that the latter roads were dangerous and cited the numerous accidents.

But others not enthusiastic
Others were not so enthusiastic. Mr. Thomas Legare, a resident of Johns Island, claimed there was no traffic problem on the Island. The problem lay with getting on to and out of Johns Island. He added that most of the accidents along Main and Bohicket Roads were the result of drunken driving. It would make no difference what roads these drivers traveled. He also was skeptical that the Island’s roads were so unsafe. He noted that Bohicket and River Roads were claimed as the most dangerous in the State, a claim made by the SC Alliance for Better Roads. He drew attention to the fact that the members of the Alliance were all companies or organizations involved in road construction.

Addition of police would be a better solution
Mr. Legare and other speakers from Johns Island also expressed the view that the traffic safety issues could be addressed more fully by the addition of police. The present number was very inadequate.

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