Roads and transportation on the Sea Islands have become increasingly significant topics following several months of traffic woes and weather-related snarls. Residents have found themselves with few options that preserve the area’s character while alleviating increases in traffic on the islands’ many still-rural roads. On Monday, Nov. 6, concerned citizens had a chance to meet with representatives in order to discuss road improvements and growth.
Representatives from Berkley Electric Cooperative, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and EMS, Durham Bus Services, South Carolina Department of Transportation, St. Johns Fire District and St. Johns Water Co. were in attendance, as well as County Councilman Joe Qualey and Town of Kiawah Island Mayor Charles Lipuma. No representative from the City of Charleston was present, though an invitation was extended.
Areas of particular concern were Maybank Highway and the Main Road/Savannah Highway intersection, along with the traffic effects of the replacement of the Burden Creek and Hoopstick Creek bridges.
Two plans were discussed for Maybank Highway, including widening from the Stono River to River Road and a pitchfork that aims to improve access to River Road in both directions. According to Charleston County Construction Project Manager Molly LeMin, widening to add an additional inbound lane from the Stono bridge should begin in approximately seven months. The scale of the project has been reduced in order to impact fewer trees in the process, with only four trees affected by the current plan instead of 50 in the SCDOT’s plan.
The Maybank pitchfork plan (see above) is intended to reduce congestion at the River Road intersection by routing traffic to River Road via new access roads. The plan allows River Road traffic to bypass the Maybank Highway intersection. The land required for the northern pitchfork has been secured, while the southern pitchfork is being negotiated. Construction is not expected to begin for three to four years.
Intermediate improvements to Main Road were slated to finish Thanksgiving weekend, with the installation of a new drainage pipe and the addition of several inches of pavement to the road’s surface. These improvements are intended to target flooding in the area. A flyover design with Savannah Highway flowing over Main Road, which would provide improved traffic flow, is reported to be in the planning phase. It would be three to four years before any construction could begin.
The Burden Creek and Hoopstick Creek bridges, which are considered functionally obsolete and structurally deficient, will be replaced in 2016. During the Burden Creek replacement, River Road will be closed in the immediate area. Attendees voiced alarm over the scheduled 65-day closure (June 11 to Aug. 14, 2016) and corresponding 18-mile detour. Many objected to the timing of the closure, which falls during hurricane season to avoid affecting schools. Officials do not have a contingency plan in place should Bohicket Road be closed during the Burden Creek construction.
The Hoopstick Creek Bridge is scheduled for replacement after the completion of the Burden Creek Bridge, likely starting in Sept. 2016. Bohicket Road will remain open during construction, as the bridge can be shifted. Unfortunately, due to the presence of a historic site and sensitive ecosystem, shifting is not an option for the Burden Creek Bridge.
The Johns Island Council and Concerned Citizens of the Sea Islands sponsored the meeting. Members interested in staying up-to-date on Sea Island roads are welcome to attend monthly meetings.
Johns Island Council |Berkeley Electric Cooperative| 3351 Maybank Hwy | First Thursdays | 7 p.m.
Concerned Citizens of the Sea Islands | Wesley United Methodist Church | 2718 River Rd | Third Mondays | 6:30 p.m.