Community members get another glimpse at roundabout plan
Plans for a new roundabout at the intersection of Daniel Island Drive and Seven Farms Drive circled back to the community on May 25, when Berkeley County officials and engineers presented the latest information on the proposed project.
About 30 residents dropped in during the session, held at Church of the Holy Cross on Daniel Island. Renderings detailing the project’s design were displayed and those in attendance were invited to make comments or ask questions of the hosts - Berkeley County Councilman Josh Whitley and a team from Infrastructure Consulting and Engineering and Thomas & Hutton.
Since the community last viewed the plan, at a public meeting at Daniel Island School in October 2016, pedestrian flashers and signs were added to the design in response to citizen concerns about safety at the intersection.
“The last meeting where it was presented was pretty crowded,” noted Whitley. “After hearing the presentation, it was 2-1 in favor of the roundabout. There are still people who are opposed to it, or who have questions about it. But the feedback we have gotten, both from that engagement…and the feedback I’ve received, is greatly in favor of the roundabout.”
Even after hearing at last week’s meeting about the addition of the safety flashers, island resident Bud Ingraham still wasn’t convinced that a traffic circle is the best idea for the busy intersection.
“My concern is that there’s nothing to stop that traffic,” he said. “That’s where my problem lies.”
Gail Salomon and her husband, Steve, were among those who popped in to get a firsthand look at the improved design.
“We wanted to wait and see (the plan) and understand it,” said Gail. “I think it’s awesome if they want to keep traffic flowing…But everyone is just worried about people in the crosswalk.”
Daniel Island Neighborhood Association President Clyde Rush felt that opinions were varied in the recent session.
“My sense from listening to everybody is that about 30 to 40 percent of the people who came said ‘Hey, this looks good. You solved it,’” observed Rush. “Another 40 percent of the people said ‘Hey, I’m concerned about the kids,’ but many times in the same breath they said that drivers drive too fast…Then there was about 20 percent that said ‘I don’t care what you said (about traffic circles being safer).’ They didn’t want a roundabout.”
Glenn Durrence, a transportation department manager from Thomas & Hutton who took part in the session, agreed with Rush’s assessment.
“I think (he’s) relatively close,” said Durrence. “…I think for the majority, once their concerns were addressed, they understood and felt good about it. But they had some legitimate concerns and questions.”
“There is not one infrastructure thing we can build that everyone will agree on,” added Whitley. “We’re not going to please everybody. We’re just hoping to listen to everybody.”
The gathering on May 25 came about three weeks after a first review of the plan by the City of Charleston Technical Review Committee (TRC). Citing the importance of the project, the TRC asked that the plan be revised and resubmitted with a focus on additional best practices regarding pedestrian and bicycle safety. After that meeting, City of Charleston Councilman Gary White, whose district includes Daniel Island, expressed concerns about moving forward with the design before getting widespread community support for the project.
“I think the majority of people just want to make sure it’s done the right way,” said White at the time.
Most involved with the project agree that educating drivers and pedestrians about proper safety measures in the roundabout will be paramount.
“We have put in pedestrian improvements based on the feedback,” said Whitley. “Then there are some who are not opposed to a roundabout, but they are concerned with educating drivers once it’s implemented. And I agree with that. We can engage whatever bodies we need to from an educational component next year when it’s built.”
As an example of a successful use of traffic circles, Whitley points to Carmel, Indiana, a place he calls “the home of roundabouts.” There, he explains, they are replacing all of their intersections with roundabouts and have “not had one pedestrian incident.”
“If you didn’t do anything, studies and engineers will tell you that roundabouts are safer for pedestrians because they slow traffic,” added Whitley. “And if one car stops, it will stop all traffic for the crossing person, as opposed to expanding additional lanes where there are blind spots and conflict points.”
The TRC still has to give a thumbs up on the resubmitted design for the roundabout before sending it off to City Council for final approval. Barring any delays or objections, the project is expected to move forward with construction beginning post Volvo Car Open in 2018.