Multi-use pathway wanted in Summerville; how it affects Highway 61 improvement plans

Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 8:15 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 9, 2022 at 6:35 AM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - People that live in Dorchester County are raising safety concerns for cyclists and pedestrians ahead of next week’s South Carolina Department of Transportation’s public information meeting.

This meeting will discuss future improvements for Highway 61, but some people are not satisfied with the current plan.

The SCDOT’s Rural Roads Safety Project’s purpose is to improve safety for a section of Highway 61 between Boone Hill Road to Bacons Bridge Road in Dorchester County. South Carolina currently has the highest traffic fatality rate in the country, according to the SCDOT website,

Pete Poore, Director of Communications for SCDOT, says he wants this project to help solve that.

“The main goal is safety,” Poore said. “The idea is to prevent run-off the road crashes and save lives. These techniques have proven to reduce crashes and fatalities by 50%, so we hope even more, if possible.”

Some of these improvements will include rumble strips, guardrails and wider shoulders. However, people that live along this road say they want the SCDOT to prioritize their safety without a car before when they are in a car.

Erica Malachowski, a Legend Oaks resident and leader for Bike/Walk Summerville, says she worries for the kids’ safety when getting to school.

“Our main safety concerns really aren’t just about vehicle crashes,” Malachowski said. “Our safety concerns are, really, connectivity on this road. We have, last year, about 7,000 people that live in this basically 3-mile stretch. We all can’t connect to each other. There’s no safe way for children to ride their bike to any of the four schools that are on this road without a chance of being hit by a car.”

Alan Saracina, a Summerville resident and cyclist on this road for 20 years, says the current roads are extremely unsafe.

“It’s not that bad for vehicles, but it’s horrible for bicycles and for people to walk on or to push a stroller on or to ride your bike on,” Saracina said. “I mean, there’s no shoulder, there is a small rumble strip that you kind of have to dodge, you’re dodging potholes, and you got to watch for cars and dump trucks. It’s like, really, the most unsafe section of the road there is.”

The SCDOT says they do not have a multi-use pathway on their to-do list, but it could come from the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments once they get the funding.

Daniel Brock, BCDCOG regional strategist, provided this statement when asked about the project:

“While a desirable goal for this dangerous stretch of highway -- which saw 243 crashes in a recent four-year period – is a shared-used path, there are other cost-effective measures that could potentially be considered in the meantime as part of SCDOT’s proposed safety project. Some examples, such as sidewalk replacement, lighting and crosswalks would greatly improve safety, connectivity and access for Dorchester County residents in this rapidly growing area, who have a chance to voice their views online via the project website or during an in-person public meeting next week.”

Sandy O’Keefe, Summerville resident and another leader for Bike/Walk Summerville, says she is ready to share her thoughts at the meeting next week.

“This is a residential area,” O’Keefe said. “This is not a major highway. There’s cars that fly up and down this road like it’s a major highway, but it’s not. It’s residential. There needs to be some sort of access for kids to be able to ride their bikes to school and walk to school.”

The SCDOT will hold a public information meeting about these improvements on July 14 at Ashley Ridge High School from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The public can write comments online, by mail or in person at the meeting.

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