Big changes suggested for Folly corridor

By Warren Cobb | Managing Editor

Earlier this year, the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG) began exploring options to improve the Folly Road corridor. The project, referred to as “Rethink Folly Road: A Complete Streets Study,” is being undertaken in association with the City of Charleston, the Town of James Island, the City of Folly Beach, Charleston County, the Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority (CARTA), and the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT). The purpose of this study is to identify the opportunities and explore the potential to transform the Folly Road corridor into a more sustainable, multimodal corridor, which could serve as a precedent for the Charleston region.

As Folly residents and visitors know, the Folly Road corridor is a busy one. In 2010, almost 19,000 residents lived on or within a half-mile of the 7.87-mile segment of the road between Center Street on Folly Beach and the Wappoo Cut Bridge. Average Daily Traffic (ADT) volumes range from 44,000 across the Wappoo Cut Bridge and approximately 9,300 ADT across the causeway to Folly Beach. According to the draft report released by the BCDCOG’s consultant in August 2015, Folly Road struggles with inefficient traffic operations, infrequent sidewalks, limited bike lanes, sparse landscaping, and inadequate infrastructure to support CARTA’s bus system. Aging strip malls and auto-oriented commercial uses line the corridor. The roadway, including many of the properties that front it, does not convey James Island’s unique sense of place.

The consultant, Dover, Kohl & Partners, made several recommendations for changes along the route:
1. Design a “complete street” that balances the needs of all modes of travel.
2. Facilitate multimodal (walking, biking, and transit) conversions along the corridor
3. Integrating enhanced public transportation into future improvements
4. Coordinate among various governmental bodies with regard to zoning and development standards.
5. Setting standards for new development along the corridor.

One of the most interesting points of the report is a full-throated endorsement for the “Folly Trolley” as an extension of public transit. “Formalizing (the Folly Trolley) as part of the CARTA Routes would result in increasing mobility to the general populace and provide a public route to the beachfront and properties on the southern end of Folly Road,” the report states. The proposed route would have two new transit centers, including one park and ride stop proposed at the intersection of Grimball Road and South Grimball Road, near James Island Elementary School. With the route running seasonally, during the summer, the increase in traffic that the park and ride will generate will be offset by the absence of traffic with the school being on summer hours. The location was chosen for its existing parking lot and a short travel time to the beachfront. Having a park and ride stop on the Folly Trolley route will help alleviate the parking demand on the beachfront during the peak tourism seasons. The proposed Folly Trolley route will take approximately 10 minutes to travel one way. It is proposed that the use of an open-air trolley remains to allow beach-goers the ability to get on and off with bags and coolers easily.

Just as interesting is the report’s suggestion that Folly Road from Grimball to the beach would include a reduction in number of travel lanes from four to two. One lane would be transformed into a trolley-only lane, allowing for two-way travel for the trolley, and the other lane would be transformed into a mixed-use path adjacent to the northbound lane.

The next steps in the process would be to get buy-in from state, county and municipal governments.

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