Stuck in the Middle With Joe

Stuck in the Middle with Joe

Council vets final SCDOT adjustments to “Qualey Alternative” to Harbor View Road Improvements Project

By Charlie Morrison

Community Editor


Photo by Joe Felder, FIVI Images
Charleston County Councilman Joe Qualey has been walking on a double yellow-lined tightrope since introducing the “Qualey Alternative” plan as a potential compromise in the Charleston County Roadwise, half-cent sales tax-funded project to widen and improve Harbor View Road.

When Charleston County Council voted to approve the “The Qualey Alternativefor the County Roadwise project to widen and improve Harbor View Road, back in May of last year, they thought they’d at long last put the contentious issue to bed. The plan represented the first real compromise on the project.

Having spearheaded the effort to put the contentious issue to bed, Qualey likely slept well himself the night County Council shipped his rubber-stamped plan up the highway to Columbia, where it would likely survive a final review by the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT). His satisfaction proved, indeed to be fleeting for Qualey as inevitably, flaws were found, guidelines cited, and the project changed again.

Qualey’s March 2012 proposal for the roadway featured a number of key design components, including reducing the width of the center turn lane, eliminating it all together at various, less traveled intersections along the roadway, the removal of the proposed, 10-foot shared use path in favor of on-street bike lanes, the installation of traffic signals as well as a roundabout to be located at key intersections, and finally, the reduction of the speed limit along the roadway from 40 mph to 35 mph.

In a letter to County Roadwise representative Peter Valiquette, the SCDOT’s James Mattox outlined the body’s assessment of the proposal. In the letter, Mattox stated that the body signed off on the plan for the project, excepting two changes. The SCDOT mandated in its response that there be a pedestrian facility on both sides of the roadway. Not putting a sidewalk on each side of the road would invite residents to cross the street at random mid-block locations instead of designated crossings. As to the mandate that the speed limit remain at 40 MPH, SCDOT is less clear, simply stating the change “was not warranted based on state and federal guidelines.”

Whether the SCDOT changes represent a final, necessary compromise, and doesn’t lead to the roadways themselves being compromised or the integrity of the plan being compromised, is irrelevant according to Qualey, who is more familiar now on the complexities of working directly with the state organization.

But familiarity didn’t prevent his scoffing at the process that led to the SCDOT’s final changes, according to Qualey. “After Council passed the agreement, we all assumed it was in process as we designed it,” says Qualey. “Well, unbeknownst to us, (County Roadwise contractor) Peter Valiquette continued negotiating with the SCDOT, there was back and forth between the two.

After a couple days of digging, Qualey uncovered an issue bandying about the various roadway engineers, a group led by Valiquette, and SCDOT, that of the sidewalks being necessary on both sides of the road as a preventative measure to any lawsuits pertaining to injuries sustained on the roadway in which a plaintiff were to blame the design of the road on the incident. The threat of liability was enough to prompt further discussion, laments Qualey.

“I think the worst part about it was that we didn’t know they (County Roadwise and SCDOT) were negotiating this issue,” says Qualey. “But in the end, last night (Thursday, Jan. 17) was a good night for James Island. We voted unanimously to move on Harbor View Road, and they voted on Camp and Folly (Roadwise’s Camp and Folly Intersection Improvements project). It’s time.”

Final County Council approval or rejection of the design for Harbor View Road was heard at the January 22 meeting of County Council. For or more information on the Harbor View Road Improvements project, see Roadwise website dedicated to the project at

© 2013 Wiser Time Publishing, Inc.

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