“Suicide merge” fix to cost about $10 Million

“Suicide merge” fix to cost about $10 Million
July 11 19:40 2018 Print This Article

Charleston County Councilman Brantley Moody told the audience at the July West Ashley Revitalization Commission (WARC) meeting Wednesday that reconfiguring the “suicide merge” junction where Sam Rittenberg Boulevard meets Old Towne Road would cost about $10 Million. County transportation engineer Richard Turner said that the funding sources for the project are not yet clear. Some options to fix the merge include the transportation sales tax, the Sam Rittenberg Tax Incremental Finance District (TIF) approved in 2016, and the 2% hospitality tax on prepared food and beverages, which generates about $16 Million per year for City of Charleston. Moody indicated that pedestrian safety would be included in the merge fix design. Once Charleston County approves the design, it must be submitted to SCDOT for permitting.

The WARC meeting was centered around the future use for the former Northbridge Piggly Wiggly property, which the city acquired for $3 Million in 2017, using eminent domain. West Ashley resident Sheri Irwin pointed out during the public comment period that the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which covers eminent domain guidelines, would allow for road improvements but not commercial use.

Charleston planning director Jacob Lindsey told the audience that more than 650 survey forms were submitted concerning the future use of the property and that surveys will continue to be received until the end of July. Nearly 70 people visited The Schoolhouse to collaborate with city planners and produced sketches of what they want the property to look like. The top three use ideas submitted were small-scale retail, a restaurant, or park space. With Irwin’s constitutional guidelines in mind, the city would have to sell the property in order to make the first two options legal.

WARC Chairman Peter Shahid, a Charleston City Councilman whose district includes the property, said he prefers a civic use. He said the lot would not be used for a park-and-ride bus lot, which was one of the items listed on the survey. The Old Charles Towne District Task Force submitted a letter to Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg in May stating that nearby neighborhoods opposed the bus lot idea. Tecklenburg said that the city will explore interim use ideas for the property, including food truck service.

Some of the design drawings for the property included a “round-about” feature. Charleston City Councilman Marvin Wagner noted that 45,000 cars pass by the property each day and cautioned that a round-about could not support that traffic volume.