Priority – Bike Lanes or Drainage?
October 11, 2017
By John Steinberger | Contributing Writer
Charleston County Council’s Finance Committee recently voted to provide $3 Million from the $2.1 Billion transportation sales tax fund to provide a dedicated pedestrian and bicycle path from West Ashley to downtown. From the language of the New Urbanism playbook, that is called “non-motorized connectivity.” In a situation in which there are conflicting spending priorities, Charleston County voters must ask whether dedicated bicycle lanes are more important than fixing the drainage problems which have created hundreds of millions in property damage since 2015.
Charleston Moves, a small but well-organized bicycle lobbyist group, has created the illusion that dedicated bicycle lanes is a civil right. The group gets its members to pack meetings and contact local Council members. It promotes the notion that riding a bicycle is the only form of transportation a large number of people have available, pointing to hospitality employees as an example.
Think about this – would you want a food-server or bartender who had just bicycled 10 miles to a downtown establishment? In June, July or August? If the hospitality industry has a problem with employees getting transportation to their businesses, it should be left up to providing carpooling arrangements or a shuttle system from local shopping centers to get employees to work. Don’t put the responsibility on the taxpayers.
The drainage problem should be the top priority for local elected officials. There are many West Ashley homes which have experienced major flooding damage three or four times since 2015. Over-development, particularly in the wetlands, and the failure to properly maintain the existing drainage infrastructure are the major reasons for the flooding. There are thousands of residents who have anxiety attacks each time there is a heavy rain.
To the City of Charleston’s credit, it commissioned engineering firm Weston & Sampson to conduct a study in the Church Creek Drainage Basin in West Ashley. Project manager Bob Horner from James Island is on record as saying that the basin is over-capacity, meaning that it fills faster than it can drain. The firm will submit a finding of fact report to Charleston City Council October 30 with a list of drainage improvement projects and estimated costs. It will follow that report with community outreach meetings to explain the findings. You can provide feedback here: https://www.churchcreekbasinstudy.com/comments
Charleston City Council District 10 candidate Harry Griffin, Jr. recently walked the Church Creek Drainage Basin, which goes from Pierpont to beyond Village Green on Ashley River Road and down Bees Ferry Road to Grand Oaks. It also includes neighborhoods along Glenn McConnell Parkway, which fall within Charleston City Council District 2. Griffin took pictures showing that existing drainage systems are not being maintained. I have previously documented the lack of a preventive drainage maintenance plan: https://lowcountrysource.com/feature-this/charleston-no-drainage-maintenance-schedule/
Griffin said, “How can we convince taxpayers to invest in new drainage projects if we can’t maintain what we have?” He added, “I studied our culverts (drainage pipes), I studied our ditches and went to places within the basin that aren’t easy to access. What I found was atrocious. There has been absolute negligence when it comes to maintaining our drainage systems.” Griffin said he reached out to City of Charleston public works engineer Laura Cabiness on the maintenance problems he discovered.
The drainage problems in West Ashley and elsewhere in Charleston County can only be solved with a coordinated effort by municipal governments, Charleston County Council, which is responsible for un-incorporated areas, and the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT). State Senator Sandy Senn has already worked closely with SCDOT to monitor drain pipes within its jurisdiction. Failure to solve these drainage problems will lead to more destruction and despair for thousands of residents and taxpayers.
It is up to us to contact our local elected officials. What is more important to you – spending millions on new bicycle lanes or protecting property owners from flooding damage? People who have experienced massive flooding have not only incurred massive repair bills not covered by insurance. They have also experienced what amounts to Post Traumatic Distress Disorder (PTSD). It is government’s first responsibility to keep people safe in their homes.