By Barney Blakeney
Since construction of the access road from I-26 to the new Hugh K. Leatherman S.C. State Port Authority Terminal began, the drive on King Street Extension, Meeting Street Road or Spruill Avenue in the Charleston Neck Area during peak commuting hours can be a test of patience. For residents of the Rosemont community it’s more than a traffic nightmare.
For the approximately 400 residents of the community where only two entrance/exit roads give it access to King Street Extension and the rest of the world, that traffic gridlock means they are unable either to enter or leave their community via motor vehicle. And it also means motorists unfamiliar with the neighborhood engage in futile searches through the neighborhood’s maze of dead-end streets to find a way out of the bumper-to-bumper gridlock.
Resident Ray Buggs says the construction is having an especially adverse effect on their community. They’re concerned about the ability of emergency vehicles to reach them if necessary, but more ordinarily, normal commuting is drastically restricted during certain times of the day. Add to that annoyance, truckers trying to circumvent the gridlock inadvertently pulling down overhead lines and the fallout from the construction becomes more than inconvenience.
For more than 10 years residents have known the construction would come, but they were not prepared for what’s come with it. Studies should have told them what to expect, Buggs said. “The port expansion will happen, but nothing’s being done to control traffic flow,” he laments. “This should have been anticipated.”
Temporary traffic signals or traffic officers could make a difference, Buggs speculates, but it seems the community’s voices are falling on deaf ears. “This is disrupting our lifestyle. And the problem is exacerbated because we feel we’re being ignored.”
Charleston Dist. 4 City Councilman Robert Mitchell said community leaders in Rosemont were made aware of the impact the construction would have. The community even received funding to mitigate that impact. “There’s not a lot anyone can do about it now. They’ll have to conform to some things,” Mitchell said.
Rodly Millett, community liaison for the project, said Rosemont residents are facing a myriad of issues, but not all are related to the access road construction. Those issues SCDOT can control, it tries to address, he said. But it’s not always as simple as putting up temporary traffic lights.
“There’s no doubt the project will interrupt people’s lives,” Millett concedes. “But it’s something that needs to be done and we’re trying to complete it in a timely fashion. When issues come up we will address them and we will assist other agencies any way we can. We’re asking the public for patience.”
SCDOT tentatively anticipates the King Street Extension road closure should end by late July, he said.