One key feature of newly unveiled plans for the Interstate 526 project is a “multiuse path” that would connect the West Ashley Greenway and James Island County Park, a space for runners, walkers and cyclists along the 9.5 mile extension of the outer loop highway. But one mobility advocate said it may not be enough for local residents hungry for non-car transport and recreation options.
Under the plans unveiled Thursday, a 12-foot path separated from traffic would run along the length of the I-526 extension, with a dedicated onramp from the West Ashley Greenway, connections on Johns Island and protected passage to James Island County Park.
Exact specifications for how the path would be protected from traffic aren’t yet available, but Richard Turner, the Charleston County deputy director of public works, said it would most likely be some kind of wall, reminiscent of the pedestrian path along the Ravenel Bridge.
But if experience is any indication, one local bike and pedestrian advocate said the proposed 12-foot path may be inadequate on day one if the project is ever completed.
“I’m glad it connects to key areas and will help fill some gaps. But it’s not wide enough,” said Katie Zimmerman, executive director of Charleston Moves. “We’ve learned from the immense popularity of [Ravenel Bridge’s] Wonders’ Way that a 12′ bi-directional path for people walking and biking becomes crowded very quickly, and causes conflict between users.”
Zimmerman said directional paths need to be on either side of the parkway or the path needs to be wider to accommodate two-way traffic, pointing to the Ashley River pedestrian bridge in the works.
Paired with that new bridge and the West Ashley Greenway, the I-526 multiuse path could serve as the first safe passageway for cyclists and pedestrians between James and Johns islands, downtown, Mount Pleasant and beyond.
Public comment is open on the project until Oct. 15. You can learn more about it at scdotmarkclark.com. The latest plans are available at the virtual public hearing, or you can attend the Sept. 14 public hearing (West Ashley) in person, along with community meetings Aug. 31 (Johns Island) and Sept. 1 (James Island).