During our community outreach we have been asked numerous questions regarding the Main Road Corridor Project and our Alternative 6. This is a summary of the most frequently asked questions and our responses. (You can find a printable version here.)
Q1: What exactly is Rational Roads’ Alternative 6?
A1: At its heart Alternative 6 is a data and community driven solution to our traffic issues on Main and Bohicket Roads. It is an effective solution that would be less destructive to our culture and environment, would cost less to implement, and could be built quicker than the other five alternatives.
Rational Roads has examined the traffic data and met with the community to determine what the needs are for both today and tomorrow. What we found is that:
By solving these issues, rather than simply building a five-lane road where the data show it is not needed, Alternative 6 does not require that long stretches of land be taken from homeowners, that long stretches of wetland be filled in, that our grand oaks canopies be cut down, or that farmlands be taken out of production.
Q2: Why does Rational Roads think improving Main Road (from Chisolm/River Roads to Maybank Highway) should be included in the current effort?
A2: That portion of Main Road needs to be included for two reasons. First, that is where some of our most significant safety, congestion, and delay issues are located. Second, all of Main Road is included to be upgraded as part of the 2016 half-cent sales tax.
The safety, congestion, and delay issues include:
With respect to funding, the ordinance associated with the 2016 half-cent sales tax referendum stated that “The Sales and Use Tax shall be expended for the costs of the following projects” including the “ US 17 at Main Road flyover and widening Main Road from Bees Ferry to Betsy Kerrison with Parkway type section at Bohicket”
Funding from the 2016 half-cent sales tax was then allocated in 2018 for “improvements to Main Road by widening from Bees Ferry Road to Betsy Kerrison Parkway”.
Q3: Won’t the cost of the project be increased if Main Road is included?
A3: As stated above, the obligation to upgrade all of Main and Bohicket Roads already exists. That said, any upgrade should be done in a fiscally responsible manner.
Alternative 6 takes a strategic approach and identifies specific areas along the corridor that need to be addressed to improve the safety, congestion, and delay issues of today and tomorrow. With this approach we anticipate the cost of implementing Alternative 6 on Main and Bohicket Roads would be less than the cost of a wholesale five-lane widening project of all or much of Bohicket Road.
Q4: The “purpose and need” of the project does not include improving safety. Why is that?
A4: We really can’t fathom why improving safety was not included in the purpose and need for the project, especially since improving safety was explicitly called out for the Highway 41 and Riverland/Central Park projects. If improving safety were central to the Main Road Corridor project then different solutions would come to the forefront.
These solutions would include improving the dangerous curves where most of the fatalities occur, improving the intersections where most of the non-fatal accidents occur, and providing safe and inviting bike/ped paths for schoolchildren and residents.
Q5: Rational Roads keeps talking about “context-based designs”. Is that just some fringe concept?
A5: Not at all. Indeed, the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), hardly considered a fringe group, has embraced context-based designs and included it in their SCDOT 2021 Roadway Design Manual.
In Chapter 2 of that manual they discuss designing roads that are “integrated with the community”, “in harmony with the natural and social environment”, and “reflect community values”. They also discuss how designs should include “narrower lane widths”, “reducing operating speeds”, “intermittent full-width turnouts”, and using roundabouts at “the interface between rural and urban areas where speed limits change”.
Alternative 6 is very much aligned with the SCDOT’s views on context-based designs.
Q6: How do we get the County to include Main Road in the scope of the program, add safety into the purpose and need, and require context-based designs?
A6: All that is needed is a simple vote by County Council to include these in the current effort.
Q7: Why does Rational Roads think Alternative 6 will be less destructive to the culture and environment of Johns Island than the other five alternatives?
A7: Alternative 6 can be designed to minimize impacts while the other five alternatives cannot.
If there is an issue with one portion of Alternative 6, that portion can simply not be built resulting in minimal impact on the overall effectiveness of Alterative 6. For example, if the location of a desired turn lane would impact homes, then that turn lane can simply not be built.
In contrast, if there is an issue with a five-lane road, not building that portion of the road would have a significant impact on the overall effective of the road. For example, if at a certain point the road impacts homes, the road cannot be choked down from five to two lanes to avoid the homes then increased back to five lanes without seriously impacting its effectiveness.
Q8: The objective of the other five alternatives seems to be primarily focused on improving future congestion. What are Rational Roads’ objectives?
A8: Our objectives are to:
All the above should be, indeed can be, accomplished while putting the community at the forefront. As we often say, the Main Road Corridor Project should “Knit our community together and reinforce a sense of place, not just move vehicles through it”.
Q9: Does Rational Roads’ Alternative 6 meet the needs for the growth of traffic volumes through the County’s time horizon of 2045?
A9: Yes. Our well-respected consultants, Rick Hall of Hall Planning & Engineering and Norm Marshall of Smart Mobility, have analyzed Alternative 6 and have concluded it provides the needed congestion relief.
As we stated above, future traffic relief is only one of the many objectives for the Main Road Corridor Project and must be kept in perspective with the other objectives.
Q10: Since the traffic projections show there is no congestion on Bohicket Road south of Edenvale through 2045, should we just not make any improvements there?
A10: No. This portion of Bohicket Road should be improved to enhance this long-established neighborhood that has been adversely impacted by the high-speed highway running through it. This neighborhood is lined with homes close to the road, the residents lack safe access to their driveways and side streets, and safely walking across Bohicket Road to visit neighbors is almost impossible.
We propose a context-based design enhancement that reflects the traditional neighborhood character of the area. These enhancements include:
Q11: Why hasn’t Rational Roads proposed widening all of Main and Bohicket Roads? There are huge backups on these roads during rush hour.
A11: We often hear something to the effect that “all of Main Road is congested”. However, what is congested (i.e. exceeds capacity) on Main Road are the intersections, primarily at Chisolm/River Roads and Maybank Highway. This congestion at intersections results in backups, sometimes for miles, that is perceived as an issue with “all of Main Road”.
If the intersections are redesigned to keep traffic flowing smoothly, then the congestion will be reduced. And the long straightaways on Main and Bohicket will still be able to handle the current and future traffic volumes.
Similarly, delays are frequently experienced in places where drivers must wait behind vehicles making left turns, for example at Chisolm Road. Adding select left turn lanes will significantly reduce the delays.
The added benefit of not doing wholesale five-lane widening is that it minimizes the amount of land that must be taken from residents for the road right-of-way (ROW) as well as it preserves Johns Island’s iconic live oak canopy.
Q12: One of Rational Roads’ focus is the intersection at Maybank/Main/Bohicket, what you call “Angel Oak Circle”. Why is this?
A12: The two major intersections on our Island (Maybank Highway at Main/Bohicket Roads and Maybank Highway at River Road) are the traditional town centers of Johns Island. As a result of how roads have been historically designed, the Maybank/River “town center” has been turned into an uninviting highway crossroads.
Rather than continuing to design roads as we have in the past, we have the opportunity for Angel Oak Circle to be a livable and inviting town center and an economic engine for the Island. Just look at what Angel Oak Circle includes: the Sea Island and Dunmovin communities, the County Library, Haut Gap Middle School, shopping, and the soon to be expanded City and Angel Oak Parks.
Running a five lane highway through the center of Angel Oak Circle (which would be as wide as six lanes at the intersection) would forever eliminate this town center, make it nearly impossible for the community to have pedestrian and wheelchair access to shopping, and cutoff Haut Gap middle schoolers from safely accessing the expanded parks.
Q13: One of Rational Roads’ focus is safe and convenient access to our schools. Isn’t this obvious?
A13: We believe it is. That is why Alternative 6 includes:
Q14: Why has Rational Roads also proposed building new roads instead of just widening Main and Bohicket Roads? By the way, I like that idea if it’s not in my backyard.
A14: One way to improve traffic congestion is to disperse the traffic through a network of roads. If people have the option to use local roads for local trips, that reduces traffic on the main arterial roads and provides alternative ways to get around traffic congestion at larger intersections.
An existing example of this is Brownswood Road between Main Road and Maybank Highway. Traffic to and from Wadmalaw Island can utilize Brownswood Road to bypass the Maybank intersection, thereby relieving some of the congestion.
We have proposed several possible narrow two-lane roads that could be added to the road network to provide additional ways to move around the Maybank corridor without relying exclusively on Maybank Highway.
However, we have always said that these roads must be fully vetted with the local community. These additional roads are not proposed to be highways, instead they should be envisioned as neighborhood-scale roads designed for cars, bikes, and pedestrians.
Q15: Rational Roads has included several roundabouts in Alternative 6. Do roundabouts really work? I’ve heard they aren’t safe.
A15: Yes, roundabouts really work and they are safer than signalized intersections.
Roundabouts are used extensively in Charleston County. For example there are more than ten roundabouts in Mount Pleasant, where the traffic volume is high and they are highly effective.
With regard to safety, the Federal Highway Administrationhas found that nationwide, roundabouts reduce collisions by 35% and fatalities by 90%. Similarly, SCDOThas found that roundabouts have reduced collisions by 66% and fatalities by 100%.
An added benefit of roundabouts is that they, unlike signalized intersections, continue to work when there are power outages during storm events. This allows first responders to focus on storm recovery rather than manning intersections.
Q16: Rational Roads seems to be a proponent of “complete streets”. Isn’t that just adding a sidewalk?
A16: No. The complete streets approach is much more than just adding a six-foot wide sidewalk next to the curb of a road with a 50-mph speed limit. A “complete street” is a street or a road that safely accommodates space for all users, including cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit.
Perhaps the SCDOT says it best: “Sidewalks … are not just pedestrian thoroughfares; they are social places in communities serving adjacent land uses” (2021 SCDOT Roadway Design Manual, Section 2.2.15).
Any bike/ped path or sidewalk must be both safe and inviting. That means they need to be separated from the road by a wide planting strip, have extensive shading for sunny days, have safe crossings using techniques such as Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacons(RRFB), and have periodic resting spots for both bicyclists and pedestrians.
Complete streets also requires that provisions for safe and inviting public transit (CARTA) stops be incorporated into the road design.
Q17: Isn’t Alternative 6 just a collection of smaller projects?
A17: No. Alternative 6 is a single, cohesive project that encompasses Main and Bohicket Roads from Chisolm/River to Betsy Kerrison/River. It takes a strategic approach to solving our traffic issues of today and tomorrow.
Alternative 6 does stand in contrast to “monolithic” projects, for example where a road is continuously modified to five-lanes from point A to point B. Key advantages of non-monolith projects are that they are less destructive to our culture and environment.
Q18: Rational Roads seems to be everywhere on the Island with your meetings and signs. Why are you putting so much time and effort into the Main Road Corridor Project?
A18: Rational Roads is a community-based group of volunteers who call Johns Island our home. We are advocating for the soul of Johns Island. Roads have the capability to divide communities or to bring them together. We believe that with a context-based approach and with extensive input from the community, our roads can bring our community together, enhance our quality of life, and provide for our transportation needs.