The Quiet Crescendo

Amidst little fanfare, County finalizes DOT alterations to “Qualey Alternative” for Harbor View Rd.

By Charlie Morrison

The nearly decade-long debate over how best to implement the Charleston County Roadwise half-cent sales tax-funded Harbor View Road Improvements Project came to a fizzling, anti-climactic conclusion last Thursday evening, when Charleston County Council voted unanimously in approval of the recently amended, South Carolina Department of Transportation-approved (SCDOT) design for the roadway.

And though, for the better part of the past decade the question of what to do with Harbor View Rd. has been defined by the passionate, politicized, public debates on the matter, the drums of opposition were noticeably silent at last week’s meeting. A lone speaker in the public commentary session. stepped up to the microphone to voice her opposition. With the exception of Whispering Marsh Dr. resident Ellen Hoffman, James Island was for once quiet on the issue on the issue of Harbor View Rd.

“I thought we had approved (a plan)t, we all worked very hard and come to a conclusion last year on what was going to happen on Harbor View Road, and then allof a sudden it’s back on the agenda,” said Hoffman in addressing Council. “Us James Islanders, we really love our neck of the woods, we want to keep it beautiful. … we don’t want it to look like a runway.

“Mathis Ferry is a great example of a beautiful road that had a similar problem, and it’s fully functional, it works. And we just don’t understand why we can’t have a beautiful road like that on Harbor View Rd.”

As the only speaker to address Council in the public hearing, County Council Chair Teddie Pryor extended Hoffman the rare courtesy of casting aside Council decorum for a moment to address her concerns directly.

“It wasn’t of our choosing, our doing,” began Pryor in response. “The plan that we sent up to SCDOT and the Federal Highway Commission, was exactly what we voted on here, but they made some changes due to safety issues, and we have to abide by the changes that they make, they have the final say.

“They’re developing that road, and y’all got everything you wanted except the sidewalk and the (third) traffic light be added,” continued Pryor, before the spirited Hoffman reminded him of a third area of disagreement, that of the road’s proposed speed limit of 40 MPH conflicting with residents’ request of 35 MPH.

“We tried that as well, but what we’re going to do is construct the road, and them come back and look at it … if it has to be downsized, than SCDOT makes that decision. We did everything, we asked everything, and those are the things that they came back to us with, things that we have to live with if we want them to sign off on this project.”

In lambasting a process Pryor himself portrayed as unbending, Hoffman identified County Councilwoman Condon as worthy of mention. Condon, she asserted “made a valid point as last week’s meeting that ‘either you build the road for 35 MPH or you build it for 40 MPH.’”

To that point Pryor responded in a manner emblematic of both the evening and the decade of deliberations on the issue as a whole. Though his words were brief, Pryor summed up the whole of the situation. “With all due respect,she’s not a road engineer, she’s a Councilmember,” began Pryor. “We want you all to feel encouraged, but our hands are tied due to state and federal regulations.”

For more information on the Charleston County Roadwise Harbor View Road Improvements Project, see the project website at http://ccroadwise.org/projects/harbor_view_road/index.php.

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