By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
With the first big holiday weekend of the beach season approaching, Isle of Palms Police Chief Kevin Cornett is working with other Lowcountry entities to keep traffic moving at a reasonable pace as vehicles enter and leave the island and also while drivers are seeking places to park – both in the shortterm and in the long run.
Looking to the future, the Berkeley-CharlestonDorchester Council of Governments already has brought together mayors and other representatives of several Lowcountry communities – as well as the South Carolina Department of Transportation – to discuss ways to at least diminish the traffic issues that have arisen in recent years as an increasing number of people have made plans to visit local beaches, straining the resources of the barrier island towns.
“From that, we decided to put together a task force of stakeholders from each community to find solutions. It’s a wellrounded group that will put their heads together and come up with a plan,” Cornett said.
Whatever the group decides, however, will have no effect on what the traffic situation looks like on the Isle of Palms during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend – or any other busy weekend during the summer months, for that matter.
“It depends on the weather, but it’s typically a very busy weekend for us,” the chief remarked. “It was busy during spring break, so we assume there will be a fairly large number of visitors on Memorial Day weekend.”
In the short-term, the IOP Police Department will try to keep traffic moving as smoothly as possible by requiring all vehicles crossing onto the island to turn either right or left, rather than continuing to the Charleston County park or Front Beach along 14th Avenue. To get to the park, drivers will have to turn right on Palm Boulevard and make their way to Front Beach by way of 10th Avenue. They will be able to access the park by turning left onto Ocean Boulevard.
The IOP Police Department also will try to control the pace cars move using the traffic light at Palm Boulevard and the base of the IOP Connector, and the Mount Pleasant Police Department will do the same with the light at Rifle Range and the Connector. “We always keep our eyes open to see if there are other ways we can help,” Cornett said.
IOP residents and visitors got a taste of what traffic could be like May 8, when at least two accidents on the Connector bridge kept motorists on the island for hours. Cornett said the Department of Transportation’s decision to restripe the bridge earlier this year, reducing the center emergency lane from 10 feet wide to 4 feet wide, apparently had nothing to do with the collisions.
The first accident was reported at 2:46 p.m., and officers were on the scene three minutes later. The bridge was cleared at 3:51 p.m. Cornett said there were no injuries, adding that the accident is still under investigation. He said “some reports indicated that drivers were trapped on the island for up to five hours.” There was at least one other accident on the Connector later in the day that created long lines of unhappy drivers along Palm Boulevard on both sides of the Connector.