WEST ASHLEY, S.C. (WCSC) - The typical morning rush hour in West Ashley is comprised of stop and go traffic on many roads including Glenn McConnell Parkway and Bees Ferry Road.
School traffic is a contributing factor as students, parents and buses drive to West Ashley High School, which sits off Glenn McConnell Parkway and Wildcat Boulevard.
Many parents and West Ashley drivers reached out to Live 5 News with concerns about how the traffic will get worse with the addition of three large projects in the next year.
“We are getting ready to go through a large merger here with our middle schools in West Ashley," C.E. Williams Middle School Parent Teacher Association president, Meredith Repik, said.
Back in January, the school board voted to move all West Ashley Middle School students to the new C.E. Williams School when it opens in fall 2020. Right now, there are over 1,200 middle school students between the current C.E. Williams High School and West Ashley Middle School. In addition to that project, a new county library is expected to open in spring 2020 and the West Ashley Center for Advanced Studies is supposed to open in 2021. All are being built in the same complex.
“One of the questions that continues to come up is about traffic and about how the flow of this many people in and out of one location is going to affect the residents of West Ashley," Repik added. She has been involved in a district task force in addition to her duties with the PTA to get answers to these concerns.
“Wildcat Boulevard is three miles from my home and can take me over 20 minutes to arrive at the school currently," Repik said about getting to West Ashley High School to drop off her daughter. "I cannot image what it will be like with two schools on the same campus.”
According to data from the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), approximately 33,100 cars traveled along Glenn McConnell Parkway, between Bees Ferry Road and Magwood Drive, each day in 2015. That number jumped to 40,3000 cars a day in 2019.
Live 5 News spoke to Charleston County School District spokesman Andy Pruitt to ask if traffic was studied before choosing to move all middle school students to the new C.E. Williams site.
“This was something that was planned," Pruitt said. “A traffic study was done a few years ago.”
The study was done in 2016 and presented in 2017.
“They tried to simulate what it would look like when everything opened in 2020," Pruitt added. "They also compared that with traffic if C.E. Williams wasn’t built in 2020.”
The study found “the congestion on Glenn McConnell Parkway is expected to continue in the build conditions and contribute to the elevated delays at the study area intersections.” However, the study says if the timing of traffic signals is “improved," traffic will be “similar to or better than” if the school wasn’t built.
Some other suggestions mentioned in the study are:
- Connect Sanders Road to Bees Ferry Road (already in process)
- Install a traffic signal at Sanders Road and Bees Ferry Road
- Install sidewalks to Sanders Road
- Add a turn lane to Sanders Road at Half Shell Lane
- Stratify the bell schedule for West Ashley High School and C.E. Williams Middle School
When asked if the age of the traffic study is a concern, Pruitt said, “I don’t think that’s a concern when you overestimated what’s already here.”
The study was done anticipating what traffic would look like if C.E. Williams has 1,200 students and if West Ashley High School has 2,500 students (currently has 1,700). Repik said the biggest concern she, and other parents have, is the number of cars getting on and off Wildcat Boulevard.
“The sheer number of people moving on and off that road is going to be very concerning,” she added.
She’s also concerned about Sanders Road as an alternate entrance and exit.
“Sanders Road is a two-lane road through a neighborhood," Repik added. “It’s not going to be able to handle the excess volume.”
Start times for West Ashley High School and the new C.E. Williams Middle School have not been officially announced but parents have heard they will start 30 minutes apart. Repik hopes that is enough time.
“I do think the school district is being flexible, so if it doesn’t work they are willing to make adjustments through this process," she added.
Live 5 News reached out to the City of Charleston and SCDOT to see which, if any, of these suggestions they will implement in the West Ashley area. At the time of this publication, they have not responded.