From The Daniel Island News|
DI/Cainhoy road improvement projects move forward, slowly
By Elizabeth Bush
Aug 28, 2013 - 9:26:39 AM
|One project involves adding a bike and recreational path to connect Thomas Island and Daniel Island.||
|One project promises to widen the Clements Ferry Road corridor between Daniel Island and Jack Primus Road.|
Two new construction projects involving Daniel Island and Cainhoy area roadways are moving forward, although they are not necessarily on a fast track for completion.
One project involves adding a bike and recreational path to connect Thomas Island and Daniel Island and the other promises to widen the Clements Ferry Road corridor between Daniel Island and Jack Primus Road. According to planners, projected finish dates for both projects have been pushed from 2014 to 2015.
The proposed pathway along Daniel Island Drive has been in the works since 2011, when it was first announced by City of Charleston and Berkeley County officials that they would work together to seek federal grant money to fund the project. The initiative was to be split into two phases, with the first targeting the area extending from the intersection of Clements Ferry Road to the entrance to Blackbaud. The $500,000 project is to include a $210,000 free-standing pedestrian and bike bridge over Beresford Creek. The second phase will further extend the path from Blackbaud to Fairchild Street on Daniel Island, ultimately connecting the Thomas Island community with the Daniel Island neighborhood trail system.
A federal enhancement grant will help pay for the pathway, but dollars are awarded on a three-year cycle through the Charleston Area Transportation Study (CHATS), a program administered by the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments. According to City of Charleston Planner Philip Overcash, the city has to spend 100 percent of the project costs up front and will receive 80 percent back only after completion. They are waiting to begin construction towards the end of that cycle, he explained, to ensure the funding is there and that the city receives the full reimbursement.
Another factor impacting the start of construction is the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s new procedure for “Local Public Agencies,” which requires that city planners prove they have the ability to manage a project, Overcash said. That process is expected to be completed by the end of this year or early 2014, followed by design and permitting work. Depending on the availability of funding, construction on the long anticipated pathway should begin by the first quarter of 2015.
“I am very happy we’re going to be able to get the project completed,” said Gary White, City of Charleston Councilman and Daniel Island resident. “The drawback is we have to wait for the grant funding to come through…As much as I want it done today, I do have to have patience with it…My responsibility on Council is to make sure these things keep moving forward, that they don’t get lost in the shuffle and that they are kept on the timeline.”
Berkeley County Councilman Tim Callanan, also a Daniel Island resident, serves as the Berkeley County representative for CHATS. Callanan is confident the funding will come through and the project will be completed as planned.
“I’m a huge advocate that transportation money should not be limited to simply roads,” he said. “And this is a perfect example of that. Giving kids a way to travel from neighborhood to neighborhood keeps cars off the road, and that’s the purpose of this (path)…There have been some rumblings in Congress about stripping the enhancement money away, so while it’s been a little bit shorter than what we originally thought, this project should be fully funded.”
Two factors that have contributed to delays, said Callanan, are the state’s “convoluted bidding process” and the “wetlands issues” associated with construction in this area. The good news, he added, is that now planners can apply for the second phase of the project to coincide with construction of the first.
“Taking three years is not such a bad thing when you take into consideration it would have been a bike path to nowhere,” Callanan said. “Now we can get the second part funded and get some of our partners on the island to help…in some of the fundraising, then we can get another grant to fill in the gap…. So yes, it’s taking a long time, but in the end you might get both (at around the same time).”
The Blackbaud Stadium complex will clearly benefit from the addition of the path, as evidenced by the attendance at the USA vs. Canada rugby match at the facility on August 17. Charleston Battery President Andrew Bell is eager to see the project begin.
“Over 5200 attended the rugby match and the path would have been very helpful,” said Bell. “We look forward to its completion. It will allow Battery fans and folks that attend our many other events a safe way to walk to the stadium.”
“The more we provide alternative solutions for people to transport themselves from one place to another, the better off we will be,” added White, who also attended the rugby match. “…People on Daniel Island will definitely take advantage of it.”
Clements Ferry Road
While Callanan seemed pleased overall with the progress on the bike path, he was considerably more frustrated about delays involving planned improvements to a 3.6 mile stretch of Clements Ferry Road. The $22 million project is being funded through a Berkeley County penny sales tax and use tax assessment. The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) is tasked with managing construction. In his capacity as a representative for CHATS, Callanan recently attended a meeting at which the project’s budgeting and timeline were discussed. The start date for the enhancements was pushed back a year, he said.
“I understand projects get delayed, but what’s frustrating for me…is when somebody gives you a date and you pass that on to your constituents and that date is never met,” added Callanan. “…When you’re a year off, you ought to not be giving out dates.”
Callanan said the SCDOT promised to “do a better job” of getting him a schedule and meeting it.
“It’s that simple,” he said. “…You would like to think that they would be so thankful that the local taxpayers are paying to fix the state roads that they would provide service in an expeditious manner.”
According to Tucker Creed, the SCDOT’s project manager for the Clements Ferry Road improvements, the project’s original schedule was “aggressive” and additional surveys and evaluations were needed after comments were collected at an initial public hearing in 2012. A wide range of public input has been received thus far on issues such as congestion, trucks and safety, noted Tucker, and that feedback is being used to create a “preferred alternative.” An additional public hearing is slated to take place sometime between October and November of this year. Tucker said the SCDOT is now working on finishing up required environmental documentation and obtaining federal highway approval. The “right-of-way” acquisition and negotiation phase will take place in the spring of 2014, with construction set to begin in the late spring or early summer of 2015.
The Clements Ferry Road corridor is used by more than 20,000 motorists a day, according to SCDOT, and is currently functioning at an “F” in terms of level of service. The problem is only expected to worsen, as SCDOT predictions indicate that the roadway, if not enhanced, will have continued poor functioning in 2035 with a daily traffic count of 24,800. Plans for the project include widening the road from two lanes to four lanes to ease congestion between I-526 and Jack Primus Road. A 10-foot wide recreational path is also proposed, as well as a 15-foot center median. The multi-use path will ultimately connect with the planned recreational corridor extending from Daniel Island to Thomas Island.
“This will really provide a fluid connection all the way up Clements Ferry Road,” added White. “It’s a critical connection to connect Cainhoy Peninsula and the Cainhoy area to Daniel Island…. That’s why I would love to see it done sooner rather than later…but, it’s great that it will happen.”
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