Commentary: Tell Charleston County Council to Oppose “Alternative 1” and Protect the Phillips Community
The Coastal Conservation League and Charleston Moves last week announced their opposition to one of the county’s options for the Highway 41 Corridor Improvements project. The organizations oppose “Alternative 1,” which the county has indicated is their preferred option.
Through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process, Charleston County said Alternative 1 has been identified as the proposed alternative to reduce congestion within the corridor and accommodate future traffic projections. The issue? According to the Coastal Conservation League and Charleston Moves, Alternative 1 would widen Highway 41 through the center of the Phillips Community, a historic, African American settlement community established by formerly enslaved people in the 1870s. Many of the descendants of those original settlers still live on the same pieces of land their ancestors bought as free citizens of the United States.
After reading what each organization had to say about the project, and looking into it myself, Holy City Sinner agrees with their stance and joins them in asking the Charleston County Council to oppose “Alternative 1” and protect the Phillips Community. I encourage you all to do the same by signing the Coastal Conservation League’s petition here.
The petition states:
We, the undersigned, petition Charleston County Council to oppose “Alternative 1” as its preferred alternative for improvements to S.C. Highway 41 for the following reasons:
- Alternative 1 would widen Highway 41 to five lanes through the center of the Phillips Community, a historic, African American settlement community established by formerly enslaved people in the 1870s. Many of the descendants of those original settlers still live on the same pieces of land their ancestors bought as free citizens of the United States.
- Phillips is eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and widening Highway 41 through the community will destroy the historic integrity.
- Alternative 1 is in conflict with multiple plans produced by Charleston County, the Town of Mount Pleasant, and South Carolina Department of Transportation, as well as a special overlay district, where avoiding negative impacts to the state’s unique cultural resources—specifically the Phillips and Seven Mile communities—is recommended given the significance of these sites.
- Widening Highway 41 to five lanes through Phillips will negatively affect the health and safety of those who live along the road. The road improvements will lead to more motorized vehicle traffic traveling at higher speeds closer to existing homes; more and faster cars cause more air pollution.
- Residents of the Phillips Community have been communicating with transportation officials for the past 15 years to improve the corridor without impacting their neighborhood including, but not limited to, providing a professionally engineered design alternative that would provide safe travel opportunities for motorists as well as people on bikes and foot.
- The need for improvements and increased capacity to Highway 41 stems from new developments, comprised mainly of white homeowners, along the road. Phillips and Seven Mile, both Black communities, should not bear a disproportionate burden of this project.
- Other, better alternatives exist and should be re-evaluated to make this project safer and more functional for all pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers.
You can also learn more about the project and leave comments on the Charleston County’s Public Works Department’s online public meeting (www.hwy41sc.com). The public can attend this meeting anytime, 24 hours a day, seven days a week through September 11, 2020.
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