Mt. Pleasant reviews Isle of Palms Connector survey, traffic, pedestrian safety

Results of that survey mostly showed support for the connector’s current lane setup.
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 4:50 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 5, 2023 at 9:36 PM EDT
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MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - Mount Pleasant’s transportation committee considered a survey on changes for the Isle of Palms Connector, a study on traffic hotspots and a safety action plan Monday.

The members heard results from an SCDOT Isle of Palms connector survey that gathered responses from about 4,000 people. Results of that survey mostly showed support for the connector’s current lane setup.

The connector currently has one lane of traffic each way, bike and walking lanes on each side in a single direction, and a small, paved median. The second-most supported option could add a second traffic lane for vehicles leaving the island and move all the bikers and walkers going both ways into one wide multi-use path.

Richard Hricik, a cyclist, says he worries about adding cars and putting all the other non-vehicle uses in one space.

“From a public safety standpoint, any change puts people in closer contact with cars,” Hricik said during public comment.

Katie Zimmerman, the executive director of Charleston Moves, has expressed support for the current connector and has been outspoken against change for months.

“I’m hoping you agree that the existing configuration on the Isle of Palms Connector is the best option. The alternatives that DOT has put forward would cut the space for people on bikes and on foot substantially,” she said.

First responders from Isle of Palms have weighed in on this topic before, saying all the configurations, including the current one, are safe and serve the public well.

The Isle of Palms Council has already heard that presentation and members asked DOT to do a full study into the new lane option, but Mount Pleasant officials feel differently.

Mayor Will Haynie and the other members of the transportation committee agreed that they don’t think a change is a worthwhile or even useful project.

“I don’t think we need to be doing solutions in search of a problem. And the other thing that bothers me about this is removing multi-use paths that serve our neighborhoods on both sides of the connector,” Haynie said.

Committee members also heard a traffic analysis report about congestion hotspots in Mount Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant Engineering Development Services Director Bradley Morrison said a growing community needs to be constantly monitoring traffic.

“One of the things they wanted to target was understanding better what our choke points are, what our congestion points are, and what we might be able to do with those. It’s really was an effort to maximize what our existing system is,” Morrison said.

The study ran from early 2023 to a few weeks ago. The results show daily backups at certain intersections at certain times.

“You probably don’t have to be a traffic engineer to know this. You could drive in the town, and kind of see where our congestion points are along 17, Houston Northcutt Boulevard - Coleman has Chuck Dawley Boulevard. There are other locations in that report, but those are the large intersections,” Morrison said.

The congestion report is a preliminary tool for the committee to use when looking at future traffic projects. It’s also a map for where leaders could try to implement creative solutions to see if they work.

Haynie suggested an accident relief team through the police or public safety that could be deployed to high-volume areas at high traffic times to quickly get minor crashes out of the roadway.

“Money is a big issue and we’re fixing drainage and stuff like that, so we are looking for where we can do the smallest change for the biggest result and get started on those things first. I think incident management is one of the best ones we can do, not to the exclusion of others,” Haynie said in the discussion.

The transportation committee also recommended a safety action plan to the town council for further discussion. Members said they are hoping for approval. The plan includes a variety of path designs, traffic improvements and law enforcement initiatives.

“I’m very proud to have been included in the safety action plan discussions. And I’m really proud of the town for being a leader as a municipality for working on that. Ya’ll are the only ones in Charleston County who are developing their own safety action plan,” Zimmerman said.

Having a Safety Action Plan approved by town council would allow Mount Pleasant to apply for a Safe Streets and Roadways for All federal grant of $15.68 million. Leaders hope further discussion will lead to plan approval and submission for the grant in July.