Maybank Highway Transportation Improvements
The first phase of the Maybank Highway Improvements, including repaving Maybank Highway and the addition of a 4-foot bike lane is complete. The second phase, involving adding a third lane from the Stono River Bridge to Main Road on Maybank Highway is expected to be completed by the fall of 2018. The third phase, which creates the northern and southern pitchfork roads, has been designed, however, permits have yet to be issued and the County has not issued funding for the construction of both roads arguing that they only have enough funds to complete the northern pitchfork. Delays have ensued due to the SCDOT requiring new turning facilities on River Road near the northern pitchfork after the City of Charleston approved a new development across the road. The City of Charleston worked with the adjacent developers to design a solution for River Road that eliminated the need for additional turning lanes by creating a roundabout at the entrance of one of the new neighborhoods and connecting it with the other new developments through an internal grid network of streets keeping in the spirit of the Johns Island Community Plan.
In May, 2018, Charleston County voted to once again delay issuing the necessary funds to move forward on construction of the northern pitchfork in order to do yet another traffic study for the roads. These constant delays by county officials do nothing but keep the residents of Johns Island stuck in a daily experience of gridlock while trying to enter the island from James Island.
About the Project
The bottleneck at the intersection of Maybank Highway and River Road is a daily frustration for Johns Island residents. “The pitchfork plan” is a solution that will give drivers a chance to turn north or south to their destination sooner and avoid the bottleneck. Widening Maybank Highway, however, would create a 5-lane high-speed thoroughfare, cutting down Grand trees, attracting big box/strip retail and automobile dependent businesses, thereby destroying the character of Johns Island. Developing without adherence to local character and heritage will transform our unique sea island into monotonous suburbia.
When Charleston County staff began moving forward on the plans for Maybank Highway improvements, it became apparent that the design standards required by Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), SCDOT, and other applicable federal laws for Maybank Highway were not in harmony with the community, the 2007 Johns Island Community Plan prepared by the City of Charleston, and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) Recommendations as adopted by Charleston County. To eliminate these obstacles, it was recommended that the scope of the Maybank Highway Improvement Project be revised to include only improvements to Maybank Highway from the Paul J. Gelegotis Bridge over the Stono River to River Road. Further, based on the Conservation League’s suggestion, it was recommended that the road section from River Road to the intersection with Main Road/Bohicket Road be resurfaced with the addition of 4-foot wide paved shoulders to accommodate bike lanes. It was anticipated that this refined scope could be designed, permitted, and constructed with the funding allocated by the Charleston County half-cent sales tax and would not require additional funding from the CHATS guideshare, thus alleviating regulatory obstacles. On April 22, 2014, after a highly contentious debate, Charleston County Council voted to recommend approval of the revised Maybank Pitchfork plan using only local funds. This decision is exactly the type of innovative, low cost approach to improving our road system for pedestrians and bikes and preserving Johns Island’s character and quality of life that should be applied every time a project is considered.
Charleston County Roadwise half-cent sales tax Transportation Program listed the widening of Maybank Highway on Johns Island as a priority project. Unwilling to see a five lane road like Savannah Highway cut through the center of rural Johns Island, the League hired urban transportation planning firm, Hall Planning and Engineering (HPE) to study alternatives to conventional widening. HPE’s solution was a “pitchfork” plan that developed a network of parallel and complementary streets at the congested intersection of River Road and Maybank. Using a network helps drivers take right and left turns and avoid gridlock at the traffic light. HPE determined the remainder of Maybank is capable of carrying current and future traffic after the construction of this grid. Ultimately this alternative relieves the congestion of Maybank without sacrificing the tree canopy and without widening the remainder of the road. This plan was endorsed in August 2009 by Charleston County Council, the City of Charleston and the Urban Land Institute.
Contact Charleston County Council and City of Charleston Council to voice your support of this innovative solution to congestion.