Tom Bradford, Executive Director of Charleston Moves, is passionate about urban planning and bicycle advocacy. Here he shares his recent experience with the improvements for the Rte. 41 Bridge over the Wando River.
“The South Carolina Department of Transportation, confronted by a large array of political leaders and public officials, changed the configuration of the Rte. 41 Bridge over the Wando River to better accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. Charleston Moves organized the meeting to provide a forum for complaints about the its bike-unfriendliness — as well as the 55’ height of the planned structure.
The meeting was kicked off by brief presentations by State Senator Larry Grooms (R-Charleston), Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Mount Pleasant Town Council Member Paul Gawrych, Charleston County Parks and Recreation Executive Director Tom O’Rourke. Participants included U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford and a representative of U.S. Senator Tim Scott, Berkeley County Council member Tim Callanan. (See here for complete attendee list and meeting notes.)
In a surprise to most attendees, a high-level four-member SCDOT staff contingent headed by SCDOT Deputy Secretary for Engineering Van Fuller made the trip from Columbia. Charleston Moves had understood that no one from SCDOT would attend.
An apparent real “win” came several days after the meeting when SCDOT sent an e-mail to Sen. Grooms announcing that a 10’-wide multi-use path had replaced raised concrete sidewalks on each side of the bridge. The configuration originally proposed did not address either Charleston nor Berkley Counties’ master plans for expansion and pedestrian connectivity to each other and to their parks and recreational facilities such as the Francis Marion National Forrest.
Participants generally agreed that SCDOT, while clearly anticipating more vehicular traffic, did not wisely account for the substantial recreational component necessary for any public works project in the region. (In fact, CCPRC’s Tom O’Rourke spoke of an extensive web of bike lanes and trails being planned, and indicated that the U.S. Forest Service is actively promoting bicycling and other forms of recreation in the Francis Marion Forest.)
The projected lifespan of this bridge is 75 years. At least the bike/ped improvements, will fit it for much better service to the community than did the previous design.
Everyone in attendance (even the SCDOT contingent) generally agreed that a 55-foot bridge was inappropriate for this body of water based on a variety of factors including the relatively short length and often shallow waters it spans, cost, environmental impact, severity of the grade, and aesthetics. (A 55-foot bridge would loom higher on the horizon than a 35-foot bridge.) In fact, Senator Grooms, Councilman Gawrych and others suggested that a 20-foot clearance would be satisfactory.
SCDOT representatives were unanimous in asserting that any attempt not to scale down the height of the bridge would be very costly, and would result in substantial delays for re-design and re-permitting.
Charleston Moves and all the meeting participants are grateful to SCDOT for displaying some last-minute flexibility on the design of the bridge deck, and especially to Sen. Grooms and SCDOT Commissioner Rozier for their intercession with the department. We hope to use this “incident” as a teaching point, and have written Governor Haley to urge her to press SCDOT to be more respectful of local priorities, and of bicycle-pedestrian needs. We also will testify before the SCDOT Commissioners about this.
We are less optimistic about any change in the height of the bridge even though many present said they would continue to press the issue in Washington and in Columbia.”
Thanks Tom, for being a cycling advocate and sharing the news with us at Bike Law.
Check out Charleston Moves here: http://charlestonmoves.org/