THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Off-road: County develops master plan for bikeways
By Nikki Best
In an effort to ease traffic woes, the county is switching gears when it comes to funding for bikeways, sidewalks and multipurpose paths.
County Council’s land use and tourism subcommittee met Monday to discuss the planning department’s new master plan study of bike, sidewalk and multipurpose paths. The draft has 16 projects and three more will be added.
Boyd Johnson, director of planning and code enforcement for the county, drafted the unfinished plan. He says it is not an engineering study and it is not perfect. “This is just a bird’s eye view looking down where it would be nice to have a bike path, maybe a sidewalk or two.”
Johnson says the two purposes of the study turned plan are to gain support so that county council can adopt it and then submit it to the engineers, and so that his department could require new commercial or residential projects to complete smaller parts the path. He referred to a development that’s almost ready to go on Clearwater Drive.
“If they came in today, we’d make them put a bike path on Clearwater,” Johnson said.
The plan considers four kinds of paths defined in Grand Strand Area Transportation Study for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Sidewalks are defined as being 5 feet wide and allow for pedestrian traffic only. Bike lanes are located parallel to travel lanes, are a minimum of 4 feet wide, used by cyclists only and can only be added to roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. Shared roadways allow bicycle traffic to be part of regular traffic within a travel lane, but the lane must be 14 feet wide. Multipurpose paths are 10 feet wide and allow for both walkers and cyclists.
“Ten feet is the standard, but they permit 8 feet,” said Linda Ketron, who chairs Bike the Neck, referring to the Department of Transportation standard.
The study was organized by location. Then projects were ranked into three tiers of importance based on points awarded for safety, interconnectivity, expected use and community support. The projects aren’t prioritized for completion due to the complexities of completing the work. “There’s a lot of things that shape one project because of funding or DOT,” Johnson said.
County Council Member Steve Goggans said there should be some sort of prioritization put together for the projects. Council Member John Thomas disagreed.
“I think having them in the three bins the way they are now, with the caveat any of them could get funding first is good enough,” Thomas said.
“I disagree slightly,” Goggans said. “With respect to you John, and our planning staff, we really need to focus on this particular element and give it some attention. I think the prioritization is good and useful.”
“I think they’re prioritized in three bins now and anymore granularity, I don’t really know what good that does,” Thomas said.
County Administrator Sel Hemingway suggested prioritizing each tier. “I can tell you that’s exactly how we do it with road improvement projects,” he said. “If you’re going to commit county funds to seek grants and all of a sudden we get a grant, well where are we going to use it?”
Ketron interjected to specify how grants for bikeways work, that they are generally project specific and that GSATS will be the primary source of funding for projects that follow the East Coast Greenway. The state Department of Parks Recreation and Tourism “would never fund Kings River Road continuing down,” she said. “They just wouldn’t do it, they would contribute going down to Hobcaw because that’s going to be a nature trail.”
The county’s capital improvement plan allocates $500,000 to bikeways under transportation projects for the first time in fiscal year 2017. The completed bikeways on the Waccamaw Neck were funded by Bike the Neck leveraging funds with the county. The group would find grants to pay for the miles of path and the county matched or supplemented the funds in the past.
“The county’s money has to be maximized,” Hemingway said. He wants to be sure the county’s contribution is not spent without effort to find additional grants, partnerships or funding. “The funding drives where the projects take place,” he said.
The subcommittee proposed using $500,000 of $1 million earmarked for camping facilities and trails to fund the bikeways. Council Chairman Johnny Morant suggested that decision wait until the final draft is presented on May 23.
More than half the projects would be in Pawleys Island. The plan lists Waverly Road to Highway 17, Martin Luther King Road from Petrigru Drive, to Highway 17, and Petigru Drive from Tiller Drive to Martin Luther King Road as three projects in Tier 1.
“If we were to put bike lanes in, they would be in the right of way and it would take nothing away from their legitimate front property,” Ketron said.
Farther north there are bikeways already in the works. The Bike the Neck connector between Trace Drive and Boyle Drive in North Litchfield is still dealing with easement problems. A new project between Murrells Inlet 2020 and Tidelands Health would create a multipurpose path extending from Business 17 to the Waccamaw River.
The committee requested that Litchfield Drive, the North Causeway and South Causeway be added to the plan based on the roads’ popularity as pedestrian and bikeways.
The draft plan should be finalized and presented as a master plan to county council for adoption later this month. If adopted by council the plan will pass to county capital project engineers.
“Step one would certainly be to get the county to adopt it,” Hemingway said. “If we move forward with the CIP and identify that funding, and I think the next step would be to work through the prioritization.”
Other projects identified in the plan include:
• Providence Drive to Crooked Oak Drive, behind church and stores to Country Club Drive. Multipurpose path.
• Hawthorne Drive through Litchfield Country Club to Kings River Road. Bike lanes or shared road.
• Petigru Drive from Tiller Drive to Highway 17. Sidewalks with bike lanes or shared road.
• Grate Avenue from Petigru Drive west to the recycling center. Sidewalk.
• Recreation Drive to Parkersville Road north to Martin Luther King Road. Sidewalk with bike lane or shared road.
• Highway 17 from South Causeway to Hobcaw Barony. Multipurpose path.
• Kings River Road from Waverly Drive south through the Hagley neighborhood. Multipurpose path.
• Highway 17 or South Island Road south to the Charleston County line. Multipurpose path.
• Plantersville Road scenic byway. Bike lanes or shared road.