The installation of bike lanes on the upper end of Palm Boulevard on Isle of Palms has been a reoccurring request from residents for quite some time. The transportation topic usually rises to the surface when the island experiences peak volumes of traffic during the height of beach season.
Two summers ago, Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms were repaved from Jasper Boulevard to Palm Boulevard near the Isle of Palms Connector. South Carolina Department of Transportation’s (SCDOT) $2.5 million project also included new bike lanes in both directions.
Now, citizens and avid bicyclists on Isle of Palms are hoping for more lanes on Palm Boulevard, specifically from 21st to 41st Avenue. However, this would mean getting approval from SCDOT because it’s a state-owned road.
At June 3’s Public Safety Committee meeting, chair Ryan Buckhannon and councilmember Jimmy Ward finished each other’s sentence on the subject: “It’s a great idea, but where’s the money?”
Buckhannon said even if just one side of Palm Boulevard was paved at a time, his biggest fear are the adverse effects it will have on the flow of traffic. He noted that with cars typically parked on both sides of the road, especially on the weekends, adding bike lanes would seemingly create further congestion.
In the past, the city has submitted grant requests to the Charleston County Transportation Sales Tax (TST) and County Transportation Committee (CTC) programs but has been unsuccessful at obtaining grant funds, according to newly appointed city administrator Desiree Fragoso. She says the most complicated part with the desired section of Palm Boulevard is not only the parking, but extending the right-of-way would be an “extensive cost.”
“The city has been submitting this as a project for many, many years and it’s sort of the same narrative, the same request and we haven’t been getting any success,” Fragoso continued. “One of my goals is to revamp that proposal and maybe use a different strategy that will yield better results.”
Fragoso says the reason why having bike lanes along both sides of Palm Boulevard is such an “expensive endeavor” is because the actually road itself is not wide enough on one side and therefore would require paving. City staff say they’ll continue to push Charleston County’s TST and CTC on the subject until they receive results like when they received the repaving in 2017.
Buckhannon said even if just one side of Palm Boulevard was paved at a time, his biggest fear is the flow of traffic. He noted that with cars typically parked on both sides of the road, especially on the weekends, adding bike lanes would seemingly create further congestion.
Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll said whenever SCDOT decides to pave 21st to 41st Avenue, the city will certainly try to get them to the same. In the meantime, the city will be reaching out to other agencies who are promoting bicycle traffic in attempt to raise funds.
“Some of these non-profit groups that are promoting share-the-road type programs, let’s share the cost,” Buckhannon added.