‘Something Must Be Done’
Resident share mixed reactions at Harbor View Road improvements meeting
By Charlie Morrison
A crowd of hundreds packed James Island’s Stiles Point Elementary School last week for the latest installment of what has become a saga of the Harbor View Road Improvements Project. All the major players were on hand for the public information meeting, including a bevy of James Island’s elected officials, various community leaders, and a large contingent from Charleston County RoadWise, the agency managing the project. The stated goal of the meeting was to officially present the two current alternatives for the roadway and generate feedback from the public. The reaction to the meeting, however, showed the public is still as concerned with why Charleston County is going through with a project most deem as essentially flawed.
The meeting began with a brief presentation on the project, delivered by RoadWise project manager Peter Valiquette. Valiquette introduced both of the alternatives for the project currently on the table using a pair of digital fly-over videos. Following his presentation, and a hearty thanks to all attendees offered up by Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon, the meeting took on a drop-in format in which members of the public could speak directly to the many RoadWise engineers and right-of-way and environmental personnel who were on hand for the meeting.
The impetus for the information session was Charleston County Council’s October 25 decision to mandate a second alternative for the project be considered. County Councilman Joe Qualey led the effort to consider a second option – Alternative B – which has come to be known as the “Qualey Option.”
The design revisions of ‘Alternative B’ include the elimination of the 10-foot multi-use path on the north side of the road, which would have been designated for bicycle traffic, replacing it with four-foot-wide, one-way bicycle lanes adjacent to the lanes of traffic in each direction of Harbor View Road, along the span between North Shore Drive and Fort Johnson Road. The second alternative also proposes the elimination of the center lane between Affirmation Blvd. and Mikell Drive, the reduction of the two-way left-turn lane between North Shore Drive and Mikell Drive from 15 feet to 13 feet, and the elimination of the four-foot-wide grass buffer separating the sidewalk on the south side of Harbor View Road. County Council additionally mandated that the project team investigate the possibility of traffic signals, striped crosswalks, and a reduction of the road’s speed limit, from 40 mph to 35.
Mikell Drive residents Ned and Carol Forsberg, who have called James Island home for 48 years, represented a majority of attendees in expressing the need for action on Harbor View trumps which alternative is selected. “We can’t get out of our driveway, as it stands now. We’re lucky we installed speed humps, with all the cut-through traffic,” said Carol Forsberg. “The traffic signals I’m fine with, everyone’s complaining, but we don’t care about that.”
Ned Forsberg echoed his wife’s sentiments. “I leave before 7 a.m., so I don’t have any problems. But if I have a meeting at 8 a.m., I still have to leave before seven or I won’t be able to get out,” he said.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction, but I don’t think it’s enough,” said another James Island resident who declined to provide her name. “Why are there no roundabouts? I just feel like roundabouts need to be implemented here, they do take up a lot of real estate and that’s a problem, but that would offer the most benefit with the least amount of harm.”
The Qualey Option seemed to gain some traction with many James Island cyclists in attendance. Many riders, such as James Island resident and cyclist Greg Jones, see the second alternative as offering a more common-sense solution to the problem of cyclist safety. “If someone was riding to the store, it would be fine to just use the multi-use lane, but if I’m out there with my friends for a real ride and we’re going over 20 mph, we’re not going to ride on that (the multi-use lane),” said Jones. “Even though it’s there, we still have a legal right to ride on the road. Most riders would continue to ride on the road even with the multi-use lane there.”
More information on the project and the two alternatives, including up-to-date project information, including the project status, schedule, designs and maps, and public meeting information can be found online at www.ccroadwise.org/projects/harbor_view_road. Comments on the projects and its alternatives can be made at the website above, and will be taken until March 2.
County Council will again review the project at a future meeting. If either project is approved, construction could begin as early as February 2014.