CP file photo

Charleston City Council on Tuesday approved the first reading of a measure to use just over $1 million from the city’s Hospitality Fee to support the Ashley River Crossing Project, a plan years in the making to build a bike-pedestrian bridge across the lower Ashley River.

The bridge would tie into the West Ashley Greenway and Bikeway, a widely used trail system spanning inner and outer West Ashley. The bridge would span less than half a mile of water directly south of the T. Allen Legare Bridge, connecting West Ashley and the peninsula and reducing vehicle traffic.

City officials estimate the final cost to be about $41.2 million — and the city is only $1 million shy of that total. The $41 million raised for the bridge so far has come from a combination of local, state and federal funds, including a recent grant for $14 million from the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Study.

“This is a huge win for the community,” said council member Karl Brady. “Once this bridge is completed, you’ll be able to go on the Greenway from Downtown, across the bridge, all the way to my district near the Limehouse Bridge on Johns Island. That’s a huge win for mobility in this city — to be able to do that without ever having to have bikes or pedestrians get on a road.”

City leaders aren’t the only people excited to get the project underway. Katie Zimmerman, executive director of local mobility advocacy group Charleston Moves, spoke ahead of the council’s vote at Tuesday night’s meeting. 

“I just wanted to thank [City Council] for [their] continued leadership on the Ashley River bike and pedestrian bridge,” she said. It’s a huge deal. It’s going to be legacy-making for our region. It’s going to save a lot of lives and make commutes a lot more enjoyable.”

Pedestrian safety has been an ongoing discussion in Charleston and South Carolina as a whole. Several pedestrian and cyclist deaths are reported every year as people cross bridges with no dedicated pedestrian walkways or bike lanes. South Carolina ranked No. 4 in the nation for highest pedestrian deaths in the U.S., according to data from the U.S. Census and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration compiled in a January report from Car Insurance Comparison

City officials and community leaders have stressed the importance of pedestrian access in curbing these unnecessary deaths.

If fully funded, the city believes the construction contract for the bridge would be awarded in March of next year. They estimate the project will be completed in 2026.

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