It was three days after a bicyclist died in a late-night crash with a Honda Accord on Charleston’s Ashley River Bridge.
Mayor John Tecklenburg and other city officials gathered on July 19 for a virtual meeting of the city’s Traffic and Transportation Committee to discuss a yearslong project that would have saved that bicyclist’s life.
“That’s the reason we’re doing this, to have safe passage back and forth between the peninsula and West Ashley,” Tecklenburg said. “Hopefully, when this bridge is completed, an incident like that just wouldn’t happen again.”
Chad Johnson, a 23-year-old from Texas was riding across the bridge around 11:50 p.m. July 16 when the crash claimed his life. He died at the scene and police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death.
Two drawbridges cross the Ashley River where Johnson died. They provide critical connections from downtown Charleston to the bustling suburbs of West Ashley. Each day, thousands of cars and trucks rumble their way across the U.S. Highway 17 spans.
But critics and transportation advocates have long argued the bridges were never designed with pedestrians and bicyclists in mind. A slim sidewalk, barely raised from the roadway and unguarded by any rail, fence or other barrier is all that separates them from injury and death.
Advocates had pushed off and on for safe passage across the Ashley for almost a century, but efforts fell short time and time again until November 2019 when the city learned federal transportation officials had awarded an $18.1 million grant for a stand-alone bicycle and pedestrian bridge now known as the Ashley River Crossing.
Despite the challenges and delays brought by the coronavirus pandemic, officials like Jason Kronsberg, the city’s parks director, said the staff has never stopped pushing the effort forward.
They have been working with HDR, the city’s design-build support consultant, and with federal and state partners on environmental impact studies, aerial mapping and traffic studies, Kronsberg said during the committee meeting.
“Lots of stuff’s been going on behind the scenes where nobody’s seeing a lot, but (there’s) lots of work happening,” he said.
The city aims to award a design-build contract by November 2022, have the final design complete in September 2023 and finish construction by late June 2025, Kronsberg said.
The estimated price tag of the project is about $22 million.
For Katie Zimmerman, executive director of Charleston Moves, a nonprofit that’s long advocated for the bridge, seeing city officials committed to the project is helping to ease the frustrations of what’s proving to be a long, arduous process.
And Zimmerman said she’s been trying to convey that message to other frustrated Charlestonians.
“Because the majority of the funding is federal dollars, that adds a whole new layer of requirements,” she said. “There is no slow movement. It’s really all about the list of things that the city staff has to do in order to legally comply and follow all the federal requirements.”
Like Tecklenburg and other officials, Zimmerman points to
Historically, societies have always located near water, due partly to the
fact that water enables more efficient travel compared to going over land.
Waterways are critically important to the transportation of people and
goods throughout the world. The complex network of connections between
coastal ports, inland ports, rail, air, and truck routes forms a
foundation of material economic wealth worldwide.
Within the United States, waterways have been developed and integrated
into a world-class transportation system that has been instrumental in the
country’s economic development. Today, there are more than 17,700
kilometers of commercially important navigation channels in the lower 48
Early History of Water-based Transportation
The historical development of water-based transportation is connected to
the importance of domestic and international trade. Early exploration of
North America identified large amounts of natural resources such as
fisheries, timber, and furs. Trade centers were established along the
east coast of North America where goods could be gathered together and
ocean vessels could transport them to consumers in Europe and other
foreign areas. The success of commercial trading companies spurred the
Waterways in developing countries are critical avenues for local
and regional commerce. Fruit and vegetable vendors flock to floating
markets on rivers and canals, such as this one in Bangkok, Thailand.
more colonial settlements that in turn resulted in additional increases
in population, economic activity, and trade.
From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, small subsistence farms
were prevalent among the American colonies. Eventually larger farms
emerged and produced crops such as wheat, tobacco, rice, indigo, and
cotton that were commercially marketable in Europe. Ocean vessels
transported the bulk, low-value goods from the colonies to Europe and
returned with high-value, low-density goods such as inks, linens, and
finished products that had a much higher return on the investment per
Agricultural production continued to grow and support the growing
colonies’ economic development. The speed and low cost of
transporting goods by water influenced the locations of population
settlements near navigable water (rivers, lakes, canals, and oceans).
Goods produced on inland farms were transported via inland waterways to
the coastal ports. Goods shipped by smaller vessels from surrounding
ports were transported to New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, and
exported on larger oceangoing ships. These ships from the smaller ports
then transported imported goods back to the surrounding ports.
During the 1700s, the British government passed many acts, such as the
Navigation Acts and the Stamp Act of 1765, designed to collect taxes
from the colonists. The acts affected trade, and were met with
opposition from the colonist. In Philadelphia during the fall of 1774,
the “Declarations and Resolves of the First Continental
Congress” called for non-importation of British goods, and became
a catalyst for the American Revolutionary War (1775–1784). The
resulting independence for the United States allowed trade a free rein,
and it flourished.
The westward expansion of the United States exposed a wealth of natural
resources and an increased production in agricultural goods. The inland