Traffic Circle planned for Seven Farms and Daniel Island Drives
At times, it may have felt like discussions were going around in circles when it came to coming up with a viable and cost-effective solution for improving traffic safety and flow at the intersection of Daniel Island Drive and Seven Farms Drive. After all, the topic has been under discussion for years in response to multiple vehicular accidents at the busy crossroads.
But last week, members of the Berkeley County Council determined that the idea of a circle, as opposed to widening the roadways, just might be the best way to solve the problem. The board approved a $215 infrastructure improvement program that includes construction of a new roundabout at the intersection, as well as enhancements to Clements Ferry Road and other road improvement initiatives across the county.
“Traffic analysis and projected growth in District 2 highlights the need of this program, particularly that of the Clements Ferry Road improvements and the Daniel Island Drive and Seven Farms Drive roundabout,” said Berkeley County Councilman Josh Whitley, who pushed for the approval at the January 11 council meeting. “Not only will we be improving traffic efficiency, but we will also be improving safety for the residents of Berkeley County – all in the most fiscally responsible manner possible.”
According to a press release issued by Berkeley County, the program will utilize funds provided by the Berkeley County Penny Sales Tax and state and federal funding. Most of the projects are expected to be completed within four years.
“Our Administration is committed to doing all we can to have these projects started as quickly as possible,” said County Supervisor Bill Peagler. “Doing so will not only address our current needs, but it will also properly prepare Berkeley County for continued growth.”
The Daniel Island Drive and Seven Farms intersection has long been considered the most congested road crossing on Daniel Island. An informal 2014 traffic study conducted by the City of Charleston Police Department revealed that over 40 accidents had occurred at the site in a five year period. Whitley, and his predecessor Tim Callanan, along with Charleston City Councilman Gary White, have long pushed for improvements to enhance safety. The most recent proposal was to widen the roadways at the intersection, stated Whitley. A roundabout was not even an option on the table, he added, when he came in to office in early 2015. When citizens began asking him about it, he decided to explore the idea further.
“I told them incorrectly that we couldn’t do it,” he explained. “I thought it was a room issue…but in looking into it, I discovered it was a cost issue.”
Last year, approximately $750,000 was set aside to improve the intersection by widening the lanes, Whitley said, a much higher cost than what was originally determined would be needed. Projections to build a basic roundabout came out at $1 million, so Whitley went to bat for more and ultimately secured $2.6 million for the project.
“My fight for priorities was Clements Ferry Road and this intersection,” said Whitley. “We were successful in securing funds for both. There are a lot of moving parts. We secured more than what I think we will need…. but my goal would be to get the cost down significantly.”
The initial proposal is for a one lane roundabout, he added, but they may explore the idea of doing two lanes if necessary. The $2.6 million price tag would cover the two lanes, if needed, as well as right-of-way costs.
As for the roundabout idea, Whitley is confident it makes sense for the intersection.
“If 13,000 cars can go through the Long Point Road roundabout every day, then 7,000 cars can go through this one,” he said. “…I hope it would be a spectacular addition, and a beautiful point of entry at that intersection. I think it would be a real positive thing.”
The announcement last week that monies for a roundabout had been approved caught some by surprise, including Daniel Island Neighborhood President Glenn Williman and Providence Baptist Church Pastor Don Flowers, both of whom were unaware the idea was under serious consideration.
“The roundabout idea has been around for several years and was previously favored by DINA and the Daniel Island Company a few years back,” said Williman. “It sounds like this might have the best chance for success...It could be a very attractive solution for that intersection, but we don’t have any feedback yet from the current membership since this was just made public.”
Flowers, whose church sits on the corner of the intersection and would certainly be impacted by any proposed changes, learned of the roundabout while attending a recent meeting of the Daniel Island Town Association. He had heard just last November that a plan was in place to widen the lanes. Although Flowers likes the idea of a roundabout, he has questions about how much space it will require, as well as potential construction impacts.
“I love the concept,” said Flowers. “…I live in Mount Pleasant, which has become the center of roundabouts in the world, and so I like them. They don’t seem to have the congestion, and traffic does seem to move smoother. But I don’t know enough at this point about this particular project and its potential impact. Is this a one lane roundabout, or like the one at Chuck Dawley and Coleman in Mount Pleasant? How much space are they going to take up? This is the busiest intersection on the island. I would like to see what it’s going to look like.”
Councilman White expressed support for the roundabout concept when asked about the project last week.
“This is very exciting news,” he said. “It is a tremendous achievement that Councilmember Whitley has been able to get these funds appropriated for this very important project. This intersection has the highest concentration of accidents on the island, so this is not only a great benefit for improving traffic flow but for public safety as well. We have been working on this intersection for awhile now and I am ecstatic that we now have the funding available to make these improvements.”
Whitley anticipates that construction on the roundabout will not be completed until at least 2017.
“We have to get it engineered and then secure the right-of-ways,” he said. “…The bad news is we were hoping to improve this intersection by this summer and that’s not going to happen. But I’d rather get it right and do a long-term solution.”
Due to potential disruptions to traffic flow, construction is expected to take place during evening hours, Whitley added.
“(When it comes to widening lanes), you can add a lane here and there fairly easily. But you cannot easily do a roundabout. It is very disruptive, and that’s a key intersection. That’s part of where the cost increase comes…we anticipate construction would have to occur at night.”
Pedestrian crossings in the roundabout will be engineered and designed with safety in mind, said Whitley. The project will be presented in more detail at the February 2 meeting of the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association, which will be held at 7 p.m. at Church of the Holy Cross.
Additional projects within the Infrastructure Improvement Program include the Henry Brown Boulevard extension and Railroad Avenue extension; 2014 Capacity Projects of Nexton Parkway, US 176 widening, the US 52 and US 176 interchange, and the Royle Road at Sangaree Parkway and Foster Creek Road at Tanners Ford Boulevard intersection improvements; major resurfacing projects of SC 45, SC 6, SC 402, Black Tom Road and Dr. Evans Road; and local dirt road paving projects.