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SCDOT shows off truck route, Broad Street 'diet' options

Posted: January 26, 2012 2:49 p.m.
Updated: January 27, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Several hundred people drifted in small groups from display to display around Camden High School’s cafeteria Tuesday night. Local government and school district officials, members of the Camden Police Department, business men and women, history proponents and Camden-area residents studied and discussed options for a proposed truck route and a “road diet” for a section of Broad Street.

Representatives from the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and engineering firm URS/BP Barbour stood at each display, some on easels, some on tables, including ones hung on the tables turned up to act like walls. Those on easels were aerial photographs of each quadrant, or “leg,” of what could become Camden’s enforceable truck route. On the tables, both standing and hung, were URS/BP Barbour’s renderings of alternatives for Broad Street’s diet between York and DeKalb streets.

At one table showing “Alternative 1” for Broad Street, URS’s Trey Hodges explained the difference between the alternatives. One change consistent to all four alternatives -- 1, 1A, 2 and 2A -- is a complete redesign of the Broad Street/DeKalb Street intersection that would line up the north- and southbound left turn lanes exactly opposite each other.

“This would allow people in both directions to turn left at the same time,” Hodges explained.

At the intersection, in both directions, Broad Street would have dedicated left and right turn lanes and a through lane, all to facilitate a better flow of traffic, Hodges said. Currently, the left turn lanes are slightly offset, forcing SCDOT to have the traffic lights set so that north- and southbound vehicles move at separate times.

Pointing to a chart on each rendering, Hodges noted that each alternative offers a different number of parking spaces on the affected part of Broad Street. Alternative 1, the one he was manning, showed a total of 63 parking spaces, a loss of eight from the 71 there are currently. In fact, alternatives 1, 2 and 2A all call for a reduction of parking spaces. Alternatives 1, 1A and 2A each provide for front-in angled in various configurations just south of the Broad Street/Clyburn Lane intersection. Alternative 2 does not, leaving the affected portion of Broad Street at just 49 parking spaces. Alternative 1A provides for the most spaces at 80.

For the most part, Sam Kendall’s restaurant owner Jonathan Bazinet liked that.

“I’m all for doing something downtown,” Bazinet said. “My concern is parking and 1A offers the most spots, but also the most challenges.”

Bazinet said he wants the city to do something with the space between the Commerce Alley parking lot, behind TenEleven Galleria, and a former supermarket. Commerce Alley runs parallel to Broad Street, with a city parking lot north of Rutledge Street. Bazinet said his suggestion would provide more parking for people wanting to come into his restaurant and other businesses lining the west side of Broad Street.

Earlier, in front of a display of the proposed truck route’s southeast quadrant, City Councilman Willard Polk and Myers Timber Co. owner Fred Myers spoke with a SCDOT representative. Myers expressed concern about the number of turns trucks have to take on the west side of the city.

“They have to make a left and four rights. That’s five turns,” Myers said.

But, he acknowledged, “Camden’s boxed in” geographically, making a smoother truck route difficult.

Polk, meanwhile, noted wetlands and private property issues with some of the alternatives offered in the southeast quadrant. One alternative would extend Bull and Rippondon streets so they meet south of York Street. The problem, Polk said, is that Bull Street already runs through Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site. Most people do not realize that a large, unimproved lot on the north side of Bull Street between Lyttleton and Fair streets is part of Historic Camden’s grounds. Polk said creating a truck route there could negatively impact Historic Camden’s efforts to obtain National Park Service (NPS) status.

Polk suggested another possibility: improving and extending King Street to meet an extended Rippondon Street. Currently, trucks trying to go east on U.S. 1 (East DeKalb Street) are supposed to follow York Street to Mill Street to “bypass” the heart of downtown Camden.

“Some trucks are already using York to get to Rippondon Street because the turn there is easier than the one on Mill Street,” Polk said.

Tuesday’s public information meeting opened at 6 p.m. Around 6:30 p.m. Randy Williamson, an SCDOT environmental engineer, got the crowd’s attention so they could hear a little more about the proposals. He quickly turned things over to Kershaw County’s own Tyke Redfearn, the SCDOT’s manager of the truck route project.

Redfearn said SCDOT is conducting an environmental assessment. He explained that Tuesday night’s meeting was to provide the public a chance to see the proposals. Those attending the meeting were asked to fill out comment sheets. Redfearn said once SCDOT makes final decisions on what improvements to make to create the enforceable truck route, the agency will work on obtaining rights of way this fall.

“Construction should start in the spring of 2014 and take 18 months to two years to complete,” he said. “This is all to improve the flow of traffic in and around Camden.”

Specifically, Redfearn said, SCDOT is focused on how to make it easier for trucks to operate in the Camden area. Later, it will take up the issue of enforceability.

“These are the things we’re looking at,” he said of the displays around the room, “but we’re also looking for your comments.”

Redfearn noted that Springdale Race Course is an important resource along the route’s northwest leg and that there are “a number of things to consider” in the southeast quadrant. He also said the road improvements that could be made to existing roads would most likely create three-lane (two lanes in one direction, one in the other) roads, but even two-lane stretches where appropriate.

As for the Broad Street road diet, Redfearn reminded the audience that will not be started until the truck route is completed. He said there would be portions that would take the existing four lanes down to three or even two.

“These are all options we have considered; if you have any, let us know,” Redfearn concluded.

One person who immediately took Redfearn up on that offer was Penny Brown, who lives about a block south of the Boykin Road/Broad Street intersection connecting U.S. 521 North with the western portion of the truck route. SCDOT is proposing improvements to that intersection, to possibly include replacing the existing “blinking” stop/warning light with a full traffic light.

Brown, with a hand-drawn map and petition in hand, proposed creating a truck route that would take advantage of Lockhart and Sanders Creek roads and U.S. 1 North.

Elsewhere in the room, Camden Mayor Jeffrey Graham finished talking to a couple of area residents before being asked what concerns he has with any of the alternatives offered Tuesday night.

“When we see these renderings and drawings -- these are options and the question is what is the best option. For instance, what is the impact on Historic Camden trying to obtain NPS status? Maybe this is not the best alternative,” Graham said of having the truck route on Bull Street.

The mayor ended up talking with another couple of residents by the display of the southeast quadrant.

“We could have a ‘five-lane’ street, but it’s not going to bring people downtown when we have (nothing) to attract them,” he said.

Another spot SCDOT engineers have to figure out is what to do about the intersection of Ehrenclou Drive and York Street at Chesnut Ferry Extension that forms one border of Camden High School (CHS). Ehrenclou itself creates a barrier students have to cross to go its athletic complex.

A sort of swooping “X” marks the first hint at what SCDOT might do there.

“We would move the intersection south so the streets meet at a 90-degree angle and we would add a traffic light,” Williams said.

He indicated a portion of Chesnut Ferry Extension that currently becomes York Street could be reconfigured into a series of cul-de-sacs or a long driveway to provide access to homes there.

CHS Principal Dan Matthews said he is excited about the possibility.

“The safety of our students is our main concern,” Matthews said. “It will be good for students, especially with a traffic light they can touch to cross the street.”

Everyone at Tuesday’s meeting will have the chance to voice their opinions and make suggestions at a full public hearing this summer.

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