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The flying car will have to save Lady’s Island

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It was heartening to see that Jetson One, the Swedish-made flying car, made its first successful commute last week, chopping 90% of the drive time off the boss’ commute by flying over treetops, power lines and all the weary earthbound commuters below, according to an account of the event the company posted on Facebook.

The company has sold out its 2022 models and of the 105 vehicles it expects to produce in 2023, all but three of those $115,000 eight-prop drone-cars are spoken for, the post went on to say.

Maybe it was just a coincidence — or maybe it was Divine Intervention — that caused the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office to issue an advisory the same day notifying Beaufort County motorists that the (circa 1959) Woods Memorial Bridge was “closed to vehicular traffic due to a malfunction.”

The advisory went on to urge motorists to use the McTeer Bridge. With commendable understatement, the Sheriff’s Office statement added, “delays can be expected while traveling in the area.”

“Road rage inspired mayhem” may describe that situation more clearly.

Meanwhile, several days later Lady’s Island’s voters voting in the Beaufort County Council Republican primary threw out the controlled growth candidate, Paul Sommerville, for the pro-growth candidate, David Bartholomew.

Some planners estimate that under the as-of-right-now zoning in place today, 7,000 new houses could be built now on Lady’s Island. Others say it is more. But that’s just the beginning. The City of Beaufort has been steadily up-zoning the properties it annexes there, as it is doing currently for multi-family units in the Miller Drive area.

Each new dwelling unit equals 3.5 trips per day over the Beaufort River crossings, traffic engineers say. Traffic at the crossings is bad already, and with each new rooftop it gets just a little bit worse.

Everyone talks about it. But no one is doing anything about it.

There once was a plan that would have provided some relief.

In 1973 the South Carolina Highway Department proposed a third river crossing at Brickyard. That corridor was reaffirmed by Beaufort County’s transportation planners several times, most recently in 2009. There was even $500,000 set aside in the 2008 county transportation bond proceeds to develop the Brickyard right-of-way.

But all that ended when the short-sighted Beaufort City Council that was sitting in 2010 let the $500,000 be spent in Bluffton, and then didn’t raise an objection later when the Marine Corps Air Station proposed siting their new F-35 vertical landing practice area right where the Marines had previously proposed to put the new crossing’s connecting road.

Yes, there can still be a third crossing at Brickyard. And, yes, there is opposition, especially from the people who live along or nearby the proposed corridor. Thus, actually raising the money and building the new corridor along the route that the transportation planners have consistently proposed will require political courage. And, on that topic, there’s the question of whether the city or the county should be taking the lead on the traffic issue. In other words, there’s a buck and it can be passed … which politically-speaking is highly convenient.

Who do I think should be taking the lead?

The city.

Why?

Because the Northern Area Plan calls for the city to expand its boundaries onto Lady’s Island. And the city is expanding onto Lady’s Island. But the city is declining to face up to addressing the major problem its expansion onto Lady’s Island causes: traffic at the crossings.

Any such effort will take a leader with passion for the project and political unanimity behind him or her for at least a decade’s time.

Am I holding my breath?

No.

Anyway, bridges are so … 20th Century. I’m going with the political leadership … the futurists. Now I get it. I see what they see. It’s the flying car that will save Lady’s Island.

Bill Rauch was the Mayor of Beaufort from 1999 to 2008 and has twice won awards from the S.C. Press Association for his Island News columns. He can be reached at TheRauchReport@gmail.com.

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