The Town of Summerville is developing right-of-way plans for two options intended to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion at the busy Five Points intersection.
After much discussion by community members, both opposed to and in favor of a roundabout, the council voted Thursday to continue the research process and postpone a decision on changes to the intersection.
According to Russ Cornette, the town’s director of public works, crash data from the last three years shows there have been 60 crashes and 13 injuries at the intersection where Carolina Avenue, Main Street, and Tupper Lane meet.
Cornette will develop plans for a two-lane roundabout or the option of adding turn lanes into the intersection. Included in those plans will be more details on the property impact on seven homes near the site.
Brian Goldsberry, who lives on West Carolina Avenue, joined several of his neighbors in speaking out against the roundabout. He said a roundabout would bring significant impact to his property; a loss of a portion of his front yard, as well as an alteration of the character of Summerville’s historic district.
“We wanted to live in historic district of Summerville,” Goldsberry said. “We thought there would be some protection there as far as maintaining integrity, a historic district, residential district...a place where we can raise our son. What good is a historic district if the land is up for grabs and basically turned into cut through for people who don’t live in the area?”
Cornette said both a roundabout and turn lane would require 18,000 square feet of property, roughly 7,000 of which would come from the property of homeowners living near the intersection.
John Kwist, a resident living on Tupper Lane said he and his wife approve and support the roundabout plan. Safety is his primary reason for giving the go-ahead. Kwist added that a roundabout brings beautiful landscaping and removes unattractive traffic lights, poles, and wires. He said the town’s idea to close the end of Tupper Lane by converting it into a cul-de-sac would only be a “minor inconvenience.”
“We see the roundabout as a plus for the greater good of the community,” Kwist said.
However, he was concerned that first responders would not have direct access to the street. He suggested the town consider a temporary barricade that could come down in the event that a firetruck and ambulance need to access Tupper Lane.
Robby Robbins, S.C. Department of Transportation commissioner representing the First Congressional District, echoed Kwist's comments.
“Safety is a really big deal to the agency right now, and we are doing everything we can to make the roads in South Carolina safe,” Robbins said.
He said when a roundabout was proposed for West Butternut and Orangeburg roads, residents also spoke out against the project; but now that it's finished, the traffic calming device "works perfectly."
“Five points is a very dangerous intersection, it has been for some time,” Robbins said. “We are growing to the point that we can’t continue to do business the same way we’ve always done it.”
Councilwoman Kima Garten-Schmidt asked that town staff study ways to ensure that emergency services are not delayed in responding to Tupper Lane if the road is closed.
Councilman Walter Bailey said he would like to see a detailed plan showing the property impact of both options.
“I personally don't know right now whether I’d vote for this or not,” Bailey said.
Councilman Bill McIntosh said he didn’t want to slow down the decision process but he was not prepared to choose between the two options based on the information available.
Cornette said developing more plans will take a month or two. The cost for improvements to the intersection is expected to range between $830,000 and $874,750. Funds are available in the town’s Public Works budget.
“The numbers show the roundabout would function better than the turn lanes," Cornette said. "It would address the safety issue better."