James Island Connector Study Gets Underway
Charleston Moves Director Tom Bradford met friday with the engineers assigned to conduct a feasibility study on returning cyclists – legally – to the James Island Connector.
The engineering firm Stantec expects to deliver a draft of its report to the City of Charleston Traffic and Transportation Department in January of next year. The firm’s representatives report that they are doing traffic measurements and conducting research on comparable projects around the country and elsewhere in the world.
At the friday meeting, Charleston Moves made a series of suggestions about how bicyclists might safely use the Connector, suggestions that could, if taken together, add up to a complete re-thinking of the route. At the top of the list are reduced speed limits and reconfiguring lane markings (a road diet) in order to provide a safer margin for bicycle travel in both directions. We also traced routes that would enable some cyclists to safely cross between the Charleston peninsula and James Island without crossing on-ramps and off-ramps.
When it is complete, the Stantec plan will go to Charleston City Council for consideration. (The state legislature approved a law allowing for the use of a limited access highway by bicyclists — if there is no safe alternative and if the City Council approves it through local legislation0.
While the study goes on it will be up to us — and the entire cycling community — to continue expressing the demand that the Connector be re-opened to cycling.
The following is a list of the points that were made:
- This project must succeed because there is no other safe route for people using bicycles for transportation between the Charleston peninsula and James Island
- The widely popular Charleston moves initiative, the Battery2Beach Route, as well as a contemplated much larger system of interconnected bicycle routes depends upon reopening the James Island Connector (JIC) to bicyclists.
- Re-opening this route for cyclists will spare SCDOT, Charleston County and everyone much grief because the alternative, the Wappoo Cut bridge, is woefully unsafe for alternative forms of transportation (and improving or replacing it is cost-prohibitive).
- Aesthetically, the “boulevard” concept makes sense because the JIC affords some of the best possible views of our beautiful city, its waterways and marshes, and slowing traffic down would allow people to enjoy these vistas.
- When the fourth lane on the Legare (Rte. 17 NB) Bridge is rededicated to bike/ped traffic, it will facilitate this project by making it possible for cyclists to avoid crossing on-ramps and off-ramps on the JIC. (We can discuss road diets and other measures for feeder roads to facilitate this.)
- There is sufficient room for bike lanes on both sides of the JIC (With a configuration in each side consisting of 10′ breakdown lane, two 12′ travel lanes, and a 6′ buffer against the median, re-striping the road could allow for a 14′ outer lane in each direction, safely accommodating cyclists.
- The projected 526 extension project contemplates a 45mph “boulevard” configuration with parallel bicycle lanes and thus sets an example for this already existing portion of the same road (as well as it sets the stage for a speed limit reduction).
- Cosmetic and real measures can be can be taken to alter the appearance of the roadway to discourage high-speed travel (we need auto throughput figures for 60mph v. 45mph, etc.)*
- A slightly raised concrete barrier, or raised “dots” (?) could delineate the line between auto and bicycle travel lanes
- The bicycle lane could be further delineated by using painted diagonal (or similar alternative) markings
*The proposed bike lanes will have to be swept often to keep it clear of debris, and the appearance of street-sweepers will be constructive in achieving this new appearance.