Seven Mile community calls on Charleston Co. to reconsider highway improvements

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 8:59 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 30, 2021 at 11:56 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - A historic community in Mount Pleasant is pushing back against proposed improvements to Highway 41 and 17.

Charleston County has been considering plans to relieve traffic in Mount Pleasant. The current proposal would widen Highway 41 from the Wando River Bridge to the intersection of Highway 17 and 41.

While there have been discussions about how the project could impact the Phillips community, people who live off Highway 17 said they haven’t been included in those conversations.

The Seven Mile community is a historic African American area that has been around for centuries. Many of the people who live there are sweetgrass basket makers who sell their wares in roadside stands off Highway 17.

Neighbors said the county’s current improvement plans would widen Highway 17 and further divide their community.

“Every time you widen the highway you displace the basket markers. We would like to see them continue selling their wares here in the Seven Mile community on the side of the highway,” Seven Mile resident Jeannette Lee said. " They keep widening Highway 17 and then we won’t have any more Seven Mile community. "

George Freeman is a representative of the Community Action Group for Encouragement, or CAGE, which is a non-profit that focuses on improving the quality of life for communities like the Seven Mile community. He said he has been working with residents to come up with a version of the plan that they want county council to consider.

“The 7A plan would have gone around the Phillips community, but would have come right back to Highway 41. In our plan, all we did was modify it to make it go through Highway 17, cross over Highway 17 and line with Billy Swails Boulevard,” Freeman said. “This would create an opportunity to have a four-lane loop that would go from Berkeley County, all the way into Charleston County, connect up with 526, and circle back to Clements Ferry Road in Berkeley County.”

Charleston County leaders say the project team in charge of the improvements is working on ways to reduce impacts to surrounding communities, and they will present a new version of the plan at the next county council meeting on Aug. 5.

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