Community members rally online against roadway expansion plans

VIDEO: Community members rally online against roadway expansion plans

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A group of more than 175 people living on Johns Island are banding together to oppose a project which could widen Bohicket Road from Maybank Highway to Betsy Kerrison Parkway.

They are rallying together as the deadline approaches for community members to provide their comments on the road’s expansion by Nov. 16. They have created a growing Facebook group of residents who oppose the proposed plans called “Save Bohicket Road.” Membership in the group grew to nearly 200 people within about 48 hours.

“Once you destroy what’s here you can never bring it back," said Catherine Poag, a homeowner who opposes the proposed alternatives being considered. "It’s been here for hundreds and hundreds of years, so it’s a special place. I would hope it could retain that character for a very long time.”

The area is considered “Segment C” of Charleston County’s overall Main Road Corridor project. Officials want to widen Bohicket Road to four lanes, with two lanes of traffic traveling each way.

“The Main Road Corridor project was identified as a project of regional significance in the 2016 half-cent sales tax ordinance. The purpose of the Main Road Segment C Project is to reduce traffic congestion and increase capacity on Bohicket Road from Maybank Highway to Betsy Kerrison Parkway, and to provide opportunities for bicyclists and pedestrians to safely travel throughout the project area," a statement from Charleston County said. "At this stage of the project, we are presenting five reasonable alternatives that meet the purpose and need of the project and we invite the public to provide us their comments. It is important to gather citizen input as we work towards creating safer and more efficient travel on Johns Island.”

However, each of the five alternative proposals will impact varying amounts of wetlands, streams, homes, businesses, floodplains, and farmlands.

Alternative 2 is the most impactful to those living and working near the potential construction zone. The proposal would widen River Road, and 47 homeowners and businesses could be asked to relocate.

“These are properties that may require relocation of the residence or business in order to construct the project. The project team must identify all potential property relocations within the project area and avoid them if possible. If an alternative meets the purpose of the project but cannot avoid property relocations, the County is required to follow the United States Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, the South Carolina Eminent Domain Procedure Act, and SCDOT’s Right of Way Manuals,” the Main Road Corridor website states.

“A lot of people moved here because they love Johns Island and the character. They bought places here because it is semi-rural and quiet, beautiful trees and they do get very upset when all of that gets destroyed," said Rich Thomas, a homeowner who opposes the current widening project.

He’s also concerned the roadway expansion will lead to more development in the area.

“People look at it and say it’s easier to get out there so they build more developments and more houses and pretty soon you’re back to where you were," Thomas said.

The Coastal Conservation Leagues is also urging Charleston County leaders to consider the potential environmental impacts of the alternative plans, among other issues. They are asking Charleston County “to go back to the drawing board and develop an alternative that maintains both Bohicket Road and nearby River Road as two-lane road, with passing lanes added only in specific areas where there is no tree canopy,” a CCL action alert stated. “We do not need an expressway through rural Johns Island. Tell Charleston County to provide safe ways for cars to pass and for people to walk and bike along the corridor without destroying the very thing that makes Johns Island unique.”

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