Plans to install a parking lot and entry point for the Spanish Moss Trail's intersection with Ribaut Road are on hold because a group spearheading the trail's construction wants to use that money to create a safer crossing instead.
Getting across the busy road -- one of the main paths cutting through Port Royal Island -- will require safe crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists, according to Dean Moss, executive director of the Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail. The group intends to work with the S.C. Department of Transportation to install a special pedestrian-controlled signal that, when activated, could stop vehicular traffic.
Such signals -- also known as High-Intensity Activated crossWalKs -- have been used in Columbia and elsewhere, but not locally, according to Moss.
A DOT permit would be required to install it at the intersection of the trail and Ribaut Road.
"It will tend to help slow traffic down on that section, anyway," Moss said of vehicular traffic. "I think that's something the town would like to do slow down people after they get off the crossway."
According to S.C. Department of Transportation data from 2012, about 34,300 vehicles travel that section of Ribaut Road daily. In 2010, the speed limit was lowered from 45 to 40 mph for safety reasons.
The signal will allow the trail to be extended to Appleton Road, and from there users can travel the streets and sidewalks to attractions including the Cypress Wetlands and Sands Beach.
"The idea is to try to get the trail in as quickly as we can to that point, because that gets you into the street grid of Port Royal," Moss said.
Ed McBrayer, executive director of the Atlanta-based PATH Foundation, said the organization has used the HAWK signals on other trails, and they work well in high-traffic areas such as universities. They usually cost between $75,000 and $100,000.
PATH is currently building 2.3 miles of concrete path between Allison and Ribaut roads, extending the original mile between Depot and Allison roads.
Nixing the Ribaut Road parking will save about $70,000, which will go toward the cost of the crossing and trail extension. Those involved in building the trail will meet and discuss where to get additional money, if needed, he said.
Parking is available at Depot Road, Westvine Drive and Broome Lane.
The plan changes also eliminate concerns about cars turning off and onto Ribaut Road to get into the parking area, as well as people walking along the road. McBrayer said.
"We didn't really like having people stopping and turning out of that driveway, anyway," he said.
Port Royal town manager Van Willis said he has been working with Moss to get permission from the S.C. State Ports Authority to survey land it owns that the railroad right-of-way, which the trail is built on, runs through.
A path through that property, which is south of Ribaut Road, could either be made of the same concrete as the rest of the trail or another, compacted material that would provide "flexibility" if it needed to be moved in the future, he said. The property is for sale at $22.5 million; development plans are to be determined.
It has not been determined when work to extend the trail across Ribaut Road will occur. A grand opening for the Ribaut-to-Allison portion is planned for 11 a.m. Nov. 26 at the Westvine Drive intersection.
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