Local citizens band together to prevent unreasonably large bridge project

  • Thursday, January 31, 2013

Members of the "Keep it Low" group say they don't want a "mini-Ravenel" bridge. [Staff file photo by Tyler Heffernan]

Keep It Low is a grassroots group of residents who live in the vicinity of the Highway 41 Wando Bridge. These community members are working to ensure an appropriately scaled replacement bridge is built over the Wando at Highway 41.

The existing moveable Highway 41 Bridge is in bad shape and the S.C. Department of Transportation is planning to replace it. Keep it Low believes that 35 feet of vertical clearance under the new bridge is more than adequate, and nearly all boat owners and residents along the upper Wando agree, according to surveys conducted by SCDOT and the Federal Highway Administration.

However, SCDOT is moving forward with plans for a bridge with 55 feet of clearance, which, Keep It Low believes is not needed or wanted by the community, and will negatively impact quality of life in this beautiful area. The U.S. Coast Guard (who has the last word on the bridge’s design) has said that 35 feet of vertical clearance is likely to meet the reasonable navigational needs for the waterway, but SCDOT is preparing an application for a bridge with 55 feet of clearance. “Given the current dire economic situation, one wonders how spending millions of extra federal or state taxpayer dollars can be justified to build the 20 extra feet of height when a 35 foot bridge will meet the needs of the community,” says one of the founders of Keep it Low, Marcia Rosenberg of Dunes West.

“The Wando essentially becomes an estuary upstream of the Highway 41 Bridge. Nobody needs to go up there in a large sailboat or large powerboat, and there is no reason to build a huge bridge to accommodate the few who want to bring such a tall boat up there,” says Rosenberg.

Rosenberg notes that the higher clearance of a 55-foot bridge will invite larger boats upstream, which will lead to greater air quality and noise impacts in the area, and more development of property upstream of the bridge, all of which she believes will negatively affect the magnificent wildlife found in the marshes and the pristine waterways adjoining the Francis Marion National Forest. Additionally, a 55-foot bridge will have a steeper incline, and trucks will have to work harder to cross over the bridge, leading to even more noise and air pollution, she says. Plus, she adds, “a smaller bridge fits the aesthetic of our area; we don’t need a ‘mini-Ravenel’ bridge here.”

“We are trying to work with SCDOT, the U.S. Coast Guard, Mount Pleasant and Berkeley County to get an appropriately-scaled replacement bridge built for Highway 41 over the Wando. But these agencies represent the people, and they won’t change course unless they hear from the residents of this area,” Rosenberg said. “We need people to speak up before it is too late.”

Keep it Low regularly posts information on meetings, bridge designs and permits, and other important information on their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/keepitlowwandobridge.

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