Roundabout discussions get combative at DINA meeting
Peeking through the window of the Church of the Holy Cross, the beginning signs of construction are apparent. Sections of the road are blocked off by large orange barrels and cars cautiously navigate around them. Inside the worship area, another series of arguments about the roundabout at Seven Farms Drive and Daniel Island Drive is underway.
With construction imminent, some residents are still deeply anxious, as they showed at a sometimes combative Daniel Island Neighborhood Association meeting on May 7.
Questions from the audience about the roundabout started with one man asking for police statistics about pedestrian accidents at traffic circles versus intersections. “How are those same drivers going to get that much smarter about crosswalks and pedestrians when they come to a roundabout,” he asked.
Charleston Police Lieutenant James Byrne responded that he did not have the number of pedestrian collisions struck at the Seven Farms Drive intersection with Daniel Island Drive, but he said that a roundabout will force motorists to slow down. “A straightaway carries the capability of driving quickly,” he added. “The roundabout forcing a slow down also forces a little bit more attention.”
While some members of the audience were still mumbling about the traffic situation, Police Chief Luther Reynolds spoke up about it, saying that while the construction and change can seem “unsettling,” many communities “would do anything to have a roundabout.”
“They do have a lot of mitigating effects,” he said.
Later in the meeting, Berkeley County Principal Engineer Lisa Costner stood up to answer questions about the roundabout. “It’s a very quick construction,” she began. “The deadline is July 21 to have it completed.”
One crowd member said that she sees motorists regularly ignore pedestrian crosswalks, leaving some people stranded in the road. “If no one stops for the flashing beacons now, why are they going to stop for them there,” she asked.
“We’ve done every possible scenario to avoid any kind of situation,” Costner claimed. “The statistics are 35 percent less crashes.”
Several parties showed concern about kids crossing the street at the roundabout. One woman asked if there will be any education programs for students.
“My number one thing is safety,” said Costner. “We even did a video online for roundabouts.”
“Towards the end of the [Safer Streets] campaign is going to be when the roundabout is nearing completion, so we’ll launch a lot of education about roundabouts,” DINA President Marie Delcioppo added.
“How did we get to a roundabout,” one resident asked. “Why was this a higher level of service?”
“We’re really spending all this money and compromising children’s safety,” the resident added, to which Delcioppo quickly protested.
“Who voted on it,” another member of the crowd said as more people began speaking at once.
Former Berkeley County Councilman and Deputy Supervisor Tim Callanan stood up in the midst of the chatter to say that the two-lane roundabout was the best service option when the proposal came to the County, during his tenure. The roundabout that is being built comprises one lane.
“The reason you’re dealing with all of this is because it was to increase the efficiency of the interchange,” he said. “The best level of service we got was at a two-lane roundabout.”
“Just so everybody knows, this isn’t going to solve any problems,” Callanan claimed. “It just seems like it’s being built for the sake of building it. A roundabout’s a great idea if they are engineered for the intersection, specifically. That would have been a two-lane roundabout.”
“I can tell you this,” Costner said among the defenses. “My son would not be a quadriplegic today if he had gone through a roundabout on his bike a year and half ago.”
“How fast was the car going,” one woman immediately responded.
Costner relayed that the car was travelling at 40 miles per hour.
“And let’s be real,” Delcioppo quickly added. “People gun it through this intersection.”
“I know this is a change and I know that’s uncomfortable, but this is something that has been used worldwide for many significant amounts of time,” the DINA President said. “I’ve tried going as fast as I can through a roundabout and it is scary. I can’t hit 20.”
The crowd stood firm. “I don’t think in your traffic study, you have the impact of the roundabout traffic— how it would affect River Landing Drive,” one man said. “Five minutes before the school lets out, there’s going to be about 160 cars from Bishop England coming through that roundabout.”
Meanwhile the orange traffic cones outside the window of the Church of the Holy Cross stood at the intersection, indicating that construction will continue.
The meeting began with some announcements from DINA President Marie Delcioppo about traffic around the island. According to Delcioppo, the Island Park Drive- Fairchild Street traffic signal is in the pre-construction phase. Grant Electrical will be the contractor.
At Island Park Drive and Seven Farms Drive, where pedestrian signals are planned, final design plans are being worked out. The installation is predicted to be done by June 30.
Numerous proposals to permanently repair the Beresford Creek Bridge on Daniel Island Drive for the milling and resurfacing work had been provided to the City of Charleston. The city hopes to take the plans to City Council this month for approval. “They have to have a recommendation finalized by the middle of May,” Delcioppo added.
Frank Walsh took the stage next to give updates on the community center’s construction. “If everything goes through the City Council, by putting it through the people at Parks and Recreation, construction should start in July,” said Walsh. “We may go to August, but we should see something in our lifetime.”
Walsh said that construction is expected to last up to 18 months from the beginning.
Corporal Jimmy Smith with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department shared the April crime statistics for the Daniel Island area, next. “We just had one more vehicle theft. Clements Ferry, we had one burglary, one more vehicle theft, then three other larcenies,” he stated.
Smith also provided advice about alarm companies, asking residents to have a secondary contact number with their alarm company, so that BCSD can reach them if the primary contact number is not responding.
Charleston Police Lieutenant James Byrne, in his last DINA meeting before he moves off to command Team 9 in downtown Charleston, followed with an update about a stolen firearm. “This firearm was obtained in the pocket of a 17 year old person,” he said. “It turned out to be stolen from an unlocked vehicle in the Peninsula subdivision. As I’ve said many times, stolen firearms are never used for good purposes. If you have a firearm, please be responsible with it.”
During the roundabout discussion, Reynolds shifted gears to honor Lieutenant Byrne and give him a farewell as he heads off to his next assignment. “I want to recognize Jim for his leadership,” Reynolds conveyed to applause from the crowd.
Daniel Island Property Owners’ Association Manager of Community Services Barbara McLaughlin provided an update on Guggenheim Terrace’s grand opening at the beginning of the month. “We had probably 500 people there,” she said. “It far exceeded our expectations. It lead us to kind of understand how we’re going to best use that new venue and I think it’s going to be enjoyed by not only our office, but the residents.”
McLaughlin also stated that if any group wants to use Guggenheim Terrace for a get-together, they can contact her.