South Carolina Department Of Transportation Stops, Restarts Work On Isle Of Palms Connector Restriping Options

By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News

The South Carolina Department of Transportation stopped working on a study that will provide options to restripe the Isle of Palms Connector in late October, apparently in response to a lawsuit filed by an organization founded by a former IOP mayor and a current Council member. 

According to IOP City Administrator Desiree Fragoso, she was informed by the SCDOT the evening of Oct. 31 “that they may be pausing the study.” Four days later, on Nov. 4, Fragoso got the word that SCDOT was moving forward with plans to present its findings to the IOP Council, either on Nov. 15 or Dec. 6, Fragoso said.

“We paused our work in order to let the attorneys review the situation,” Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said in a Nov. 7 email. “Following their review, we resumed work a few days later. The pause had no significant impact. We are still on track to meet with IOP city officials prior to the end of the calendar year.” Mayor Phillip Pounds said the city did not negotiate with the state agency during the week the study was paused but instead “leveraged our relationships SCDOT and State Sen. (Chip) Campsen to get this thing back on track.” Pounds said SCDOT probably would present eight to 10 options for the Connector bridge at the city Council’s Dec. 6 meeting. The next step is “still to be determined.” Pounds noted that the Council, the Public Safety Committee – headed by Jan Anderson – and the general public might all play a role in paring the options down to a workable number. Without any input from the city of Isle of Palms, SCDOT re-striped the bridge in March 2021, adding two bike lanes and two pedestrian lanes and shrinking the center emergency lane from 10 feet to 4 feet. A year later, former Mayor Jimmy Carroll and sitting Council Member Blair Hahn formed The Palm Republic, a privately funded organization that has questioned the constitutionality of S.40, a law passed in 2021 which grants SCDOT the authority to determine where visitors to IOP, Sullivan’s Island, Edisto and Folly Beach can park on state roads and how much, if anything, these municipalities can charge them. The Palm Republic recently filed a petition and complaint with the South Carolina Supreme Court in an effort to force SCDOT to treat these four communities as it treats the state’s other municipalities. The lawsuit also claims that SCDOT violated the Constitution by restriping the bridge without input from the city. Hahn was not happy with what appeared to be SCDOT’s reaction to The Palm Republic’s lawsuit. “Every citizen has a right to challenge the constitutionality of any statute,” Hahn said. “If a government entity threatens to withhold government services because a citizen is challenging the constitutionality of a statute, that government entity should be held accountable because that’s illegal.” “SCDOT didn’t do a single engineering study or engineering report when they re-striped the bridge. They did nothing except follow the direction of those on high,” Hahn added. Fragoso, meanwhile, said the city would work with SCDOT to find ways to make the configuration of the Connector bridge more palatable to the Council and the community. 

“We continue to work collaboratively with DOT in solving issues in our community that need addressing, and we’re eager to see the final report on the IOP Connector, evaluate the options presented and discuss the best path for that project,” Fragoso said.

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