On a New Track: Proposed Greenway Could help improve City’s Economy- Charleston Post & Courier

By Adam Parker

By early 1969, it was finally finished, 12 years after the first contract had been signed.

The Interstate 26 project, championed by U.S. Sens. Strom Thurmond and Fritz Hollings, cost $1.5 billion (in today’s dollars) and connected Charleston with Spartanburg.  The stretch taking the highway into Charleston was the most troublesome of the entire 200 miles. It ran along a narrowing peninsula and through an urban landscape. Rights of way had to be secured, bridges and viaducts built.  It cut a wide swath through a neighborhood, sweeping away homes and erecting barriers, before unloading traffic onto the Crosstown.

Soon, a 1.5-mile-long strip of land, mostly positioned beneath those viaducts, could be transformed into a greenway, if a new plan is realized.  The greenway would provide Lowcountry residents with pedestrian and bike paths that stretch from Mount Pleasant Street to Woolfe Street, along the unused Norfolk Southern railroad tracks. The greenway, tentatively called the Charleston Rail Line Linear Park, would improve property in disuse, but it would do more than that, its advocates say. It would reconnect neighborhoods, beautify the city’s major gateway and help set the stage for improving Charleston’s economic future.

Michael Messner, a Lowline board member and equity fund manager, gave a TEDx Talk in Charleston in May in which he laid out a broad vision for a greener city that included the proposed greenway. He estimated that the Lowline project would cost about $10 million, and could be the first phase of a larger effort to improve the urban landscape.

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