Crews begin removal of Farrow Road bike lanes following community outrage

Crews begin removal of Farrow Road bike lanes following community outrage

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - City of Columbia crews is in the process of removing bike lanes on a three-mile stretch of Farrow Road after community members expressed their disapproval of the project two weeks ago.

According to the city, crews will re-mill and resurface the two outer lanes, restoring Farrow Road to two northbound and southbound lanes and a middle turn lane. The work is scheduled to be completed within the next week and a half.

The change comes after hundreds of community members voiced their concerns over the new bike lanes, which in turn resulted in the elimination of one lane of traffic in both directions. Concerns over congestion were also top of mind for many residents who live and commute in the area.

In late June, the South Carolina Department of Transportation resurfaced a three mile stretch of Farrow Road beginning at Columbia College Drive and ending at East Campanella Drive. The city of Columbia said the addition of new striping for bike lanes successfully coincided with the DOT's plan to resurface the road. However, the city did not hold public input sessions ahead of the change, something community members took exception to.

On July 2, the city held two meetings allowing community members to learn more about the long term project and its 2015 Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan. City officials were met at both meetings with hundreds of upset residents who said they felt left out of the process.

Councilman Ed McDowell, who represents District 2, said many of his constituents are glad their voices are finally being heard.

"They are very excited and happy now that the reversal of these bike lanes is resulting in going back to four lanes," he said.

McDowell said moving forward, he hopes the project can serve as a learning opportunity for both the city and SCDOT.

"We need to invite conversation before anything takes place," he said. "A community has a lot to offer and for those things to take place we have to have opportunities for that to take place."

McDowell said many of the people who opposed the bike lanes are not necessarily opposed to change but want to be included in the process from start to finish.

"These people are not dinosaurs," he said. "They are committed to change and economic development but not in the way this played out."

Amy Johnson Ely, executive director of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition, said the SCDOT's timetable for repaving projects leaves local municipalities with little time to plan for public input sessions.

In 2017, The Department of Transportation mapped out a 10-year plan designed to rebuilt decayed roads and replace bridges across the state. The plan utilizes the roads bill. Repaving plans for 2019 were released in June.

"They come out with their repaving list a year ahead of time, so it works out to be that local cities and towns only have about six months to coordinate an effort to get the public involved," she said. "Compared to other states around us, where it's a three or five-year list, we have the shortest amount of time to collaborate."

Johnson Ely said moving forward, she hopes the project can serve as a valuable lesson and promote more collaboration between the SCDOT and the city of Columbia, in addition to more planning time.

"When there is money in the pipeline, there's an opportunity for great things to happen in a community, so I think the city and state need to work together with more time to engage the process and to work with the neighborhoods and listen."

There are two different costs in this ordeal. The city says upon completion, the Farrow Road project was initially a SCDOT paving project estimated to cost about $140,000 but it's incomplete and it still working on final numbers.

The city says the re-milling, repaving and striping of the road is a Public Works task and will cost approximately $257,000 with a 10 percent contingency to cover intersection adjustment.  The funding source is a blend of contingency funds and Public Works funds.

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