The following is a letter to the editor regarding my coverage of the Riverland Crossing HOA’s meeting with the SCDOT about the proposed roundabout the agency is looking to install at the intersection, that appeared both in JIM on March 20. the title ‘Doubt About a Roundabout’ (click for story). The letter was submitted by HOA Board Member Louise Pecevich:
Recently, members of our neighborhood association, Riverland Crossing, met with the South Carolina Department of Transportation to discuss a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Camp Road and Riverland Drive. Charlie Morrison was kind enough to attend our meeting and to report on the issue. I would like to add some additional information to clarify significant concerns.
The project in its current design severely impacts our subdivision and would be constructed literally in the backyards of several homes in our neighborhood. Construction of the roundabout does far more than incur loss of rights of way; SCDOT wants to take a large portion of our HOA’s common area that provides a buffer between Riverland Drive and our property lines, as well as consume portions of individual property. Removing the buffer between the roadway and our property lines would create safety issues, noise pollution, air pollution and a serious loss of property value.
In addition, engineers from SCDOT have stated that the roundabout would have a drainage ditch at its perimeter; however, they were not able to tell us exactly how it would be configured or how wide it would be. A drainage ditch would add to the diameter of the project, and yet further impact private and common property, as well as a drainage swale located in HOA property. Disruption of that swale will cause flooding on Stono River Drive, presenting a definite health and property hazard.
Some points to consider:
• This project is deemed a safety project, with federal funding obtained from the Highway Safety Improvement Program. However, local crash data and traffic counts show that the intersection at Central Park and Riverland has been more hazardous over the same time period as the one
at Camp and Riverland. When asked why Central Park/Riverland Drive was not targeted for any safety measures, SCDOT representatives indicated that a project had been considered there, but could not elaborate.
• The City of Charleston and the Charleston Museum were consulted in this matter and met with SCDOT well before Riverland Crossing residents were even notified of the pending project. The Charleston Museum holds the 297-acre parcel on the western side of Riverland Drive, a part of the Dill Tract. A portion of this land abuts the proposed roundabout. SCDOT cites the tract’s 4F status as an historic site to avoid placing the roundabout slightly westward and partially on that land.
It’s important to emphasize that contributing historic sites warrant stewardship and preservation. Several potentially significant sites have been identified on this property, but per the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, the sites have not been excavated or evaluated as to their content or significance. According to State statutes, treatment of such sites is left to the discretion of the owner, and there are no rules governing proximity of roadways to historic areas, only that consideration is given to their preservation. In addition, Federal Highway Administration 4F status does not absolutely preclude construction of a roadway, and one overwhelming criterion for 4F consideration and roadways is impact on settled areas. Certainly, building a roadway in neighborhood backyards would be considered onerous.
We are very concerned about the natural environment, and take preservation and conservation issues very seriously; however, that also includes our common areas and personal properties, which also provide habitat for birds, small mammals and reptiles, as well as vegetation that provides a visual screen, sound barriers, and prevents erosion and flooding. Building a roadway in a settled neighborhood is not a reasonable, environmentally sensitive solution, nor conducive to quality of life for its inhabitants.
Further discussion revealed that the Federal Highway Improvement Program provides 100 percent federal funding for roundabouts, which is an obvious incentive for SCDOT to avoid consideration of other approaches. Our group suggested that the project be revisited from an engineering perspective. Alternatives such as use of a continuous green intersection, or a T-configuration with a light were suggested. However, SCDOT acknowledged that the primary driving factor for the design of this project was funding and a concern that anything other than a roundabout would possibly require an 80 percent/20 percent division of costs between the Federal government and the State.
There is no “free” money, especially when the price to be paid is the unnecessary destruction of a neighborhood, with questionable traffic flow benefits. A roundabout with a large footprint may be a better alternative for a newly constructed intersection, not an existing configuration in a relatively small area bounded by a creek, wetlands, and an established neighborhood. In addition, a roundabout in this location is out of character for James Island, would create a bottleneck with large recreational vehicles traveling to the county park, cause navigational nightmares for the large traffic volume attending the Festival of Lights. The roadway does contain pedestrian refuges, which can best be described as ramps traversing the roadway; however, these ramps don’t lead to sidewalks, but to drainage ditches. This does not encourage a bikeable, walkable ideal as visualized for the City of Charleston.
There’s no reason why this project cannot be relocated, and many reasons why it must be relocated or modified or ultimately abandoned. There are other reasonable alternatives that will eliminate any significant impact on our neighborhood as well as the safeguard possible historic Charleston Museum property. We hope that the SCDOT will view our comments as an opportunity to develop and implement a beneficial solution for all to what most believe to be a complicated intersection.
We deeply appreciate the opportunity to comment on this topic, and again are very grateful for Mr. Morrison’s time and consideration.
Louise A. Pecevich
Riverland Crossing Homeowners’ Association
© 2013 Wiser Time Publishing, Inc.
Editor’s Note: Though I stand behind my story, Ms. Pecevich very eloquently and accurately offers up a number of important facets of what continues to be a complicated issue in this letter.