The Folly Road Conundrum

By Mark A. Leon

For those on the path of Folly Road (You know who you are fellow James Islanders, Folly Beach residents, West Ashley and peninsula dwellers), the idea of Folly Road during beach season is a thought we try very hard to avoid.  At times, the road more closely resembles a parking lot than a roadway.  Yet, in the last three years a transition has occurred and one that has shaken up the locals.

With the increased housing development of James Island and John’s Island, traffic has gone from seasonal to all year long.  Here is what has been happening because of the increased traffic pressure:

  • The light at the corner of the James Island Connector and Folly Road can back cars up as much as seven plus lights on the connector during peak beach season and daily rush hour.  This is causing some drivers to make a right onto Folly and doing an illegal U-Turn in the middle of the road.
  • The light at Folly Road and Ellis is causing a three or four light backup to turn left due to Lowe’s, IHOP, Wells Fargo and the Peninsula Condominiums.  Some are turning right into Harris Teeter and then pulling an illegal U-Turn to take the light across Folly Road.
  • The construction on the approval circle at the intersection of Camp and Folly is causing nightly delays.
  • The increased traffic is hurting the roadway infrastructure resulting in more untreated potholes.
  • Traffic on parallel road, Riverland Avenue is seeing increased pressure and volume.
  • Businesses are suffering due to the increased challenges of making turns on Folly Road.
  • Within 3 miles, there are 10 bars and 6 restaurants with full liquor licenses.  This easy accessibility to alcohol coupled with careless driving to avoid parking lot type conditions has increased the number of Folly Road related accidents.  Without the budget to increase the police presence, this trend may continue.

Now, we need to look at future state.  We estimate that there will be 4.5 to 4.9 million tourists in Charleston in 2016.  Hotel development is at an unstoppable period of expansion.  That is a fact.

Now let us think like a tourist.  When we look for hotels, we look at mile proximity to our destination.  Folly Road on James Island sits at 3 – 10 miles from downtown Charleston and 0 – 10 miles from Folly Beach.

When does the hotel development begin?  It is a realistic future state that we cannot ignore.  Is the new Camp and Folly round about (circle) a way to alleviate the traffic issues, or a preliminary requirement to pave the way for hotel development?  We are not here to speculate or assume anything.  This is a trend that has been developing for several years and thus we cannot ignore a probability of future hospitality on Folly Road.

How do we work to rectify this Folly Road conundrum?

  • Improve the timing of the lights to provide more time for turn lanes.
  • Improve the bike lane situation to give more safe options for alternative transportation.
  • Ensure hotel development is held back.
  • Minimize new housing development moving forward
  • Closer monitoring of key spots on Folly Road to deter illegal driving behavior.

Will this solve everything?  Most likely not, but these few necessary steps can ensure the safety of our citizens and provide a better quality of life on Folly Road and surrounding areas.

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