Charleston County residents can get a look Monday evening at one of the largest road plans funded by the county’s 2016 sales tax increase, a potential new interchange or bridge to better connect Johns Island to U.S. Highway 17.
With a $195 million budget from the sales tax referendum, the plan aims to fix a highway connection that’s a daily plague on motorists: the intersection of Main Road and Savannah Highway (U.S. 17). It’s one of only two ways on and off Johns Island and points beyond, including Kiawah, Seabrook and Wadmalaw islands.
“Sometimes it takes as long as 20 minutes to cross Highway 17,” said Johns Island resident Ernest Berger. “The light changes, and changes, and changes, and the traffic inches up.”
In 2016, Berger wrote a letter that appeared in The Post and Courier. It began: “All I want for Christmas is a flyover or underpass at the intersection of Main Road and Savannah Highway.” Berger said he plans to attend the meeting Monday to see the road options.
“We’re trying to improve the traffic congestion at 17 and Main Road,” said Charleston County Project Manager Devri DeToma.
The focus of the planning is the intersection, but the plan also calls for widening Main Road from Bees Ferry Road to River and Chisolm roads on Johns Island, extending the West Ashley Greenway, and reworking the Main Road intersections with River, Chisolm and Bees Ferry roads.
Charleston County and its consultants have developed seven alternatives for the key intersection and three more for the Main/River/Chisolm road intersection. Getting public feedback on those alternatives is the next step in a long federal permitting process that’s expected to lead to construction in 2022.
Of the seven alternatives, six call for building an overpass at the Main Road and Highway 17 intersection, where one road would cross above the other.
Two alternatives call for building a bridge across the marsh, connecting Main Road to the highway. One option calls for both.
None of the alternatives have price tags attached.
For now, the county’s road planners need to narrow down the alternatives, starting with the public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. at St. John’s High School, 1518 Main Road, and continuing with a 30-day public comment period.
A county website, mainroadcorridor.com, will display the alternatives and offer a way to comment.
“We want to engage the public, get the input and refine the alternatives,” said Mitchell Metts, vice president of special projects for Infrastructure Consulting and Engineering, which is working with Charleston County.
The federal permitting process will look at the different alternatives, including their impacts on wetlands and property, Metts said.
Many residents and lawmakers have called for an overpass at the intersection for years. Currently, it’s a regular intersection with a traffic light, where westbound highway traffic heading to Johns Island must join a single lane and turn left onto Main Road.
The county’s alternatives appear to have limited impacts on occupied properties because the alternatives involve existing roads. However, businesses at the current intersection of Main Road and Highway 17 would be in the path of the road work in some of the options.
“We already bought one gas station,” DeToma said.
That station, at the northeast corner of the intersection, was vacant and for sale, she said. There have been no other property acquisitions for the road work.
“It was really more of a Band-Aid than a fix,” DeToma said.
She said the county continues to work on solutions involving raising the elevation of the road and larger drainage pipes.