File Photo | Ruta Smith

Road Work Ahead

With high fatality rates for pedestrians and cyclists along South Carolina roads, there’s been a growing cry for the state Department of Transportation (SCDOT) to step in. Earlier this month, the department answered, adopting a wide-ranging “Complete Streets” policy for state-owned roadways.

The Complete Streets policy requires SCDOT to work with regional transportation planning partners and transit providers to include walking, bicycling and transit needs, like pedestrian walkways and bike paths, as part of regional visioning plans. Those plans will, in turn, be tailored to the unique needs of each area and serve as a foundation for highway planning and design, construction, maintenance and daily operations. 

“SCDOT has had some form of a Complete Streets policy on their books for a long time,” said Jason Crowley, communities and transportation director for the Coastal Conservation League (CCL). “It’s always just been a little vague on how to implement it and when.”

CCL transportation director Jason Crowley

The CCL is part of the South Carolina Alliance for Livable Communities, a broad coalition of nonprofit and advocacy organizations as well as civic leaders. Crowley said the leadership and focus of the coalition pushed for the DOT adoption. 

As the Charleston area’s regional planning agency, the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG) will be the primary contact for SCDOT.

“Safety, connectivity and equitable access are core themes in all of BCDCOG’s multimodal mobility work, whether that be bike-ped, transit-related or commuter services-centric,” said BCDCOG Regional Strategist Daniel Brock. “SCDOT’s introduction of a statewide Complete Streets policy is not only applaudable and congruent with ongoing efforts, it’s also a key tool that will literally save lives and reduce injuries, both in our region and beyond.​”

But, it will take more than large-scale organizations’ participation to get the ball rolling.

“The BCDCOG has had many of the plans in place already that this policy is looking at as a model,” Crowley said. “But, smaller counties and COGs are going to take longer to get to that same level of planning. So, there will be a period of time when South Carolinians will need to work with local communities to get these plans in place.”

The adoption of the policy puts the responsibility of sensible road design on local governments, like municipal planning boards and BCDCOG, which also functions as the area’s metropolitan planning organization (MPO), overseeing regional transportation planning.

If there is an MPO that has any sort of bicycle or pedestrian plans in place, or needs to create plans as they go through the process, then any state road project that comes later must follow those plans. 

“It has to be considered from the very beginning,” Crowley said. “When the Ravenel Bridge was designed, for example … right before it went out for permitting, there was public outcry for bicycle and pedestrian access to it, and the Wonders’ Way was sort of slapped onto it.

“If this plan had been in place then, a multi-use path would have been part of the design process from the start,” he said.

Some such construction projects in Charleston are already in the pipeline. One such project is the connectivity work, spearheaded by the city of Charleston, along rigade Street from the future Lowcountry Lowline to Huguenin Avenue.

“The goal of the policy is to make our highway system safe and accessible to all users; drivers, passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders,” State Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said in a press release. “Proper planning is key to ensuring that the appropriate level of multimodal accommodations is provided in the right context, on the right project and in the right manner to meet the needs of the community.”

Funding for accommodations listed in the policy is to be included in the budget for each project, if warranted, in accordance with regional plans. SCDOT will be updating and modernizing its design manuals to include multimodal accommodations and establish a council to facilitate ongoing communication to seek further improvement. 

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