Setback for supporters of a bike-pedestrian bridge over the Ashley River, feds deny grant

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - There's been a setback for supporters of a bike and pedestrian bridge that would link West Ashley to downtown Charleston.

City of Charleston officials say the federal government has denied a $12.2. million grant that would have paid for most of the project.

Katie Zimmerman and Savannah Brennan depend on their bicycles to get around the Charleston area.

Both women are members of the cycling advocate organization Charleston Moves, and big supporters of the bridge.

"It is absolutely vital and we know it's vital because it's been identified as an important thing to complete," Charleston Moves Executive Director Katie Zimmerman said Thursday.

The bridge became a new option after Charleston County Council rejected a plan to convert one lane of the inbound Ashley River Bridge for a bikes and walkers.

Opponents said it would lead to traffic congestion.

Now there's talk of possibly paying for the bridge with money from the county's half-cent sales tax.

"I feel good about it if it helps out some traffic, it would be awesome. Traffic's terrible around here," said Patrick Rogers of James Island.

"I think it would be helpful because parking downtown has become ridiculous. Parking meters downtown are getting more expensive," said Dalia Hloubi of West Ashley.

Charleston County Councilman Brantley Moody says he's not opposed to the bridge.

However, Moody doesn't think council members will want to designate any more sales tax dollars beyond the three million already committed by the county.

"People in West Ashley tell me they want the roads fixed," Moody said.

A City of Charleston spokesman said it's not unusual for these kinds of grants to be awarded on the second or even third try.

"In addition to other potential funding options the community will be looking at over the next several months, the city has already begun reaching out to our federal and regional partners to revise and strengthen our TIGER application for this project in the next round," Jack O'Toole said in a statement.

Zimmerman says the bridge has to be built.

"It's time to listen to the people who have been asking for this since the 70's. Let's get it done," she said.

Zimmerman says Charleston Moves is trying to raise $1.5 million for the bridge through private donations.

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