Lowcountry Rapid Transit
Lowcountry Rapid Transit
The First Rapid Transit Project in South Carolina Qualifies for Federal Funding
In an effort to improve mobility in the Charleston area, the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments has envisioned a 21.3-mile bus rapid transit project in Charleston and North Charleston.
This project, the first rapid transit line in the state, is expected to spur development and create more equitable transportation opportunities. The route was selected in part because it will be accessible by people who are less likely to have access to a car, allowing them to reach jobs, schools, medical care, groceries, and other important destinations.
The project runs along Rivers Avenue, one of the state’s most dangerous and deadly roadways. Enhancements will make travel safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists due to a focus on reducing conflicts with traffic and investing in shared-use paths, reconstructed and/or new sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and multi-use paths .
An in-depth transit-oriented development study was also conducted which points to policies that would help proactively manage future growth while also preserving the historic communities that exist today. The team held workshops, charrettes and roundtables with real estate developers and local planners to prioritize such policies centered on equity and affordability.
Our team’s role began with providing services to advance the project through Project Development including reevaluating an alternatives analysis completed in 2016, evaluating additional alternative alignments, helping to navigate Federal Transit Administration procedures and requirements, obtaining environmental clearance through an approved Documented Categorical Exclusion, preparing 30% design plans, and preparing FTA ratings and readiness documents in support of obtaining authorization from FTA to enter the Engineering phase. Subsequent to this milestone, HDR took on the role of Program Manager to help the project move through the Engineering phase and into Construction.
The project owner, stakeholders and community members are in the process of learning about transit planning, so this project involves a lot of education. Communication to stakeholders is critical on this project, and HDR implemented a robust strategy that promotes multi-level engagement. Messages and information about the project are being delivered through a project website, videos, static and dynamic visualizations, social media, online meetings, pop up events, and community and public workshops.
One key feature of the new BRT line is the brand. Our team of branding and transit experts, developed a new brand for the project, using input from stakeholders and tying into the area’s key qualities. This comprehensive brand will introduce the community to the new system.
This project crosses multiple jurisdictions: Charleston County, the City of Charleston, the City of North Charleston, and the South Carolina Department of Transportation. Our team is helping all of these entities coordinate and understand the process from planning to implementation and maintenance in a state that is investing in mass transit for the first time. HDR has also collaborated extensively with stakeholders regarding several historic resources along the corridor and providing context sensitive solutions.
In a unique partnership, the Council of Governments, the South Carolina Department of Transportation, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority, and Charleston County have come together to deliver this project.
Our team is leading the effort to secure FTA grant funding and supporting the Council of Governments through the highly competitive FTA Capital Investment Grants process. In July 2022, the FTA announced the project was rated Medium-High based on the Project Justification and Local Financial Commitment criteria in the federal grants program. The FTA at the same time approved the LCRT to enter the Engineering phase of the CIG program.