Maybank Highway, SC

Nobody has sold more real estate along Maybank Highway, SC on Johns Island than Jim Bobo Real Estate.  Make sure to review our commercial listings along Maybank Hwy.

Maybank Highway, also known as State Highway 700, is a major arterial roadway connecting five of the seven major southern Charleston County Barrier and Sea Islands to Downtown Charleston via James Island.  Wadmalaw, Kiawah, Seabrook, Johns and parts of James Island are dependent on Maybank for the most direct access to Downtown Charleston.  Folly Beach and Edisto Island have different primary routes to Downtown, although Maybank Highway is a secondary route even for these islands.

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The Maybank Highway Widening Project

Since 2006, perhaps six major public events have had significant influence on the Maybank Highway improvement project: 1) voters approved the widening project in the second Transportation Sales Tax bond referendum; 2) the County drew up a 5 lane plan which won support; 3) the City developed its Johns Island Community Plan (conceptual zoning plan only) and reversed its earlier support of the 5 lane project stating the two were incompatible; 4) multiple improvement roadway design alternatives have been prepared, debated, redrawn and re-debated, some through public “Charrettes“;  5) Charleston County Council ordered Charleston County RoadWise to design a road plan to accommodate the City’s Johns Island Community Plan as recommended by an independent “think tank”, the Urban Land Institute (the ULI was brought in to act as a “referee” of sorts between the County and City administrations); and 6) Charleston County RoadWise has prepared an alternative 4-lane Maybank widening plan.

The deadline for public comments has expired, and CC RoadWise will announce the County and City’s final decision on the Maybank Road Plan sometime in 2013.

A. Background on the project – the County’s 5 lane design

The first road plan, presented by the County and agreed to by the City of Charleston back in 2007, calls for widening Maybank to 5 lanes between River and Bohicket (counting the paved center median as a lane), protecting the natural tree canopy at the foot of the Stono River Bridge, and providing sidewalks on both sides of the highway.  The 5 lane plan appears that it’s street design would have resembled Savannah Highway, so this option has been eliminated.

Instead of the 5 lane design, you have now been given the choice of a second plan by Charleston County RoadWise: a 4 lane divided roadway similar to Betsy  Kerrison Parkway

The second option is a 4 lane Maybank Highway from the foot of the Stono River Bridge to Bohicket with a combination of left & right turn open intersections and a landscaped median.  The 5′ sidewalk on the north side of Maybank and 10′ meandering multi-use path on the south side of Maybank would remain.

With all the arguing about Maybank Highway for the last 5 or so years, it seems that no one has mentioned the fact that Johns Island already has a 4 lane divided highway with a planted median: Betsy Kerrison Parkway, so a 4-lane Maybank would not be the first 4-lane on the Island.  In contrast to what the critics claim, Betsy Kerrison Parkway certainly has not destroyed the natural character or brought any “big box” style development to Johns Island.  Zoning controls growth, and zoning is not controlled by the State Department of Transportation on Maybank Highway – it is controlled by the City of Charleston or Charleston County – depending under which jurisdiction a particular parcel falls along Maybank Highway.

Pictured below is the County’s plan for a divided highway just after the foot of the Stono River Bridge.  At this point, west and east-bound lanes are more widely separated than at any other point along Maybank.  This is to protect and showcase the magnificent Live Oak canopy we all associate as uniquely Johns Island.  The orange stripe at the bottom is the 10′ wide multi-use sidewalk; there is a 5′ wide sidewalk on the northern side shown in purple where it links up with the existing sidewalk on Gen. Cornwallis Dr.


B. Background on the project – the City’s design

After the last debate ended in 2009,  Charleston County Council ordered RoadWise to prepare an alternative road improvement plan using recommendations from the Urban Land Institute.  This plan, sponsored by developers and adopted by the City, is referred to as the “Town/Country and Pitchfork Alternative”.  You can review all of the available details here.

Under the Town/Country and Pitchfork Alternative, there will be a new left turn lane for vehicles turning left (south) after crossing the bridge – this is the “Southern Pitchfork”.  While not shown on the plan, this intersection’s design appears it will necessitate a traffic signal for pedestrian/bicyclist access and for cars turning left.  There will also be another new traffic signal at Fenwick Hall Allee where, after crossing over the bridge to the Island, vehicles can turn right and take the “Northern Pitchfork” to River Road.  The argument for the supporters of this plan is that it will reduce the amount of traffic at the intersection of Maybank and River, allowing Maybank to alternate between a 2 and 3 lane highway from the foot of the bridge to the Main/Bohicket Road intersection, with the addition of  new right turn lanes onto River at the intersection with Maybank.  When looking at the substantial amount of infrastructure required to build these 2 Pitchfork roads, the seeming redundancy of roads and traffic signals this plan will create, the fact that nothing is done to tie Maybank west of River into the Pitchfork network, and the fact that Maybank is only going to back up further – both incoming and outbound – you have to ask yourself just exactly who stands to benefit from the Pitchfork plan?  We’re talking millions of tax-payer infrastructure dollars at stake.

From River to Bohicket, Maybank will alternate between a 2 and 3 lane road with 2 typical street designs: one in the “Country” sections and one in the “Town” sections.

In the Town-like Gathering Place districts (see D. below for an explanation of “Gathering Places”), there will be sidewalks and parallel parking on both sides of the street & a center turn lane.  The speed limit will be 25 MPH.  The “Country” section will not have parallel parking, a posted speed limit of 35 MPH, bicycle lanes and there will be a sidewalk on one side of the highway.

The intended effect of the Town and Country plan between River and Bohicket is that it will slow traffic and create a block-style development grid with multiple traffic lights – probably similar to a scaled-down Calhoun Street in Downtown Charleston.  Calhoun Street is primarily 4 lanes with sidewalks on both sides of the road, bisects the College of Charleston and provides bicyclists, pedestrians, and yes, even mechanized vehicles and the occasional horse access to the hotels, numerous businesses, Francis Marion Square – even the City of Charleston offices.

But on Johns Island, there will still only be 1 traffic lane moving cars on and off the Island via Maybank.  Will the addition of new traffic signals at the foot of the bridge to accommodate the Pitchfork design slow traffic even further?  Will maintaining Maybank with the 1 in-bound and 1 out-bound lanes be adequate for the growth that is already happening on Maybank between River and Bohicket?  It strikes me as odd that no one has stressed the mile-plus long morning back-up down Maybank heading into the City.  The Pitchfork located on the other side of River Road isn’t going to help alleviate that out-bound pressure coming down Maybank, and that’s where the real pressure is going to come from.  There are currently 3 apartment projects in the works totaling about 700 units on Maybank; nothing to my knowledge on River Road.  Just one development on Maybank, St. Johns Square, anticipates it will throw 8,800 cars per day onto Maybank at build-out.  The fact that some hired-gun consultant says the one out-bound lane is adequate into the foreseeable future is meaningless when the data used is filtered.

As for the Pitchfork road designs, here are the typical north and south pitchfork street designs:


C. Background on the project – the Federal Highway Administration

It is important to note that both plans have merit and that the Federal Highway Administration has stated that Charleston County Road Wise’s originally-proposed widening project is a “feasible and prudent alternative”.

D. Background on the project – the City’s new Smart Code zoning plan – the Johns Island Community Plan

A major part of the widening and improvement project debate centers around the City’s Johns Island Community Plan.  This plan establishes 3 “Gathering Place” Town districts along Maybank with suburban and light commercial as infill between the Gathering Places.  Thus the nickname “Town and Country”.  The City claims the County-proposed and approved widening project, which focuses more on the the current reality and increasing pressure to move vehicular traffic efficiently on and off the Island rather than on the City’s Town and Country zoning perspective, is in conflict with its plan.  It is important to note that this Zoning Plan has not been codified, meaning it isn’t the actual zoning plan, and it may never be.  Also there is some conflicting information from the City because if Calhoun Street works so well Downtown why wouldn’t a similar improvement on Maybank?  Zoning controls growth, roads do not.

Maybank Highway bisects the Urban Growth Zone and is, in essence, the “gateway” to Johns Island.  The picture below shows the City’s conceptual Smart Code based zoning plan for Johns Island.  You’ll notice a red line around the color-filled portion of the map below.  That’s the official Urban Growth Boundary and Rural Growth Boundary demarcation.  The City has pledged to not annex or provide sewer services outside the Urban Growth Zone. 

We all use Maybank Highway so the road plan decided upon will impact everyone on the Islands – it’s a decision not to be undertaken lightly.

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Jim Bobo, Jr., Realtor, BIC, ABR, RSPS, MBA

SC Land and Homes LLC
PO Box 1182
Johns Island, SC 29457-1182
Call or text (843) 442-7275
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One thought on “Maybank Highway, SC

  1. Charleston County RoadWise is having a public meeting about the new plans for the Maybank Highway Improvement project on April 17 at Haut Gap Middle School from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. It is my understanding the County will be presenting the 2 final plans. You can visit to provide your opinion. If you own property or a business, or work or travel to Johns Island, Wadmalaw Island, Kiawah Island or Seabrook Island, you have a vested interest in learning about the alternative plans and making your opinion heard!

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