Project Backer: Coastal Conservation League
THE PROJECT OR INITIATIVE
I-526 or the “Mark Clark Expressway” is an interstate loop in Charleston County that currently terminates at Savannah Highway in West Ashley and in Mount Pleasant. In June 2007, the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) voted to fund the I-526 extension from the Savannah Highway terminus to the James Island Connector (SC-30). This 8-mile highway extension is estimated to cost at least $556 million dollars and save drivers only 36 seconds in travel time from West Ashley to James Island.
Rather than just saying “No” to this destructive project, the Coastal Conservation League hired Glatting, Jackson, Kercher, Anglin, a transportation planning firm to create a new alternative to this massive highway project. Our alternative, “A New Way to Work,” will resolve traffic congestion in major bottleneck areas, costs over 50% less that the State plan and create an enhanced public realm centered around the road networks. Due to limited dollars and resources, we continue to advocate beyond even our own alternative and for a comprehensive approach, so that the projects of highest local and state priority are pursued before and instead of politically motivated projects like the I-526 extension.
The main focus of the New Way to Work plan is Savannah Highway. As the commercial properties along Savannah Highway redevelop over time (and they will) the opportunity will arise to create the full network that should have been planned all along. In the meantime, driveways along Savannah Highway can be consolidated and landscaped medians added to help organize turning movements creating a safer street for drivers and pedestrians alike.
The New Way to Work plan also focuses on other key congestion points throughout James Island, Johns Island, and West Ashley, and depends on fixing intersections and traffic patterns to relieve bottlenecks, rather than just adding more lanes and new highways.
HURDLES & CHALLENGES
Charleston County plans to spend almost $600 million on seven miles of interstate that will save commuters less than two minutes. This money must be redirected towards a series of projects within the City of Charleston and Charleston County to provide immediate relief and long term solutions to our traffic crisis.
Even if the funds for this project do not come from the I-526 extension fund, the hurdle for the City will be finding money to implement this series of transportation projects.
POTENTIAL FOR COLLABORATION
The potential for collaboration is endless – every resident in the City of Charleston will benefit from a full-scale approach to transportation and implementation of a series of problem-solving projects, relieving key congestion points while making it easier to implement and utilize mass transit and bike/pedestrian safety measures.
Regardless of where you stand on the proposed I-526 extension, we need transportation solutions in the City of Charleston NOW. Even if the extension is approved, ground will not be broken for years, if not a decade, and frankly, we cannot wait that long. The City of Charleston has an opportunity to champion solutions to our transportation issues that provide immediate relief to our traffic frustrations. A New Way to Work is a prime example of a comprehensive approach to addressing our City’s traffic needs while planning for growth in the coming years.