FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Plan Features New Route, Signage, Communications for Cruises Starting February 15
Charleston, SC - The South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA), the City of Charleston Police Department (CPD) and City staff have spent the past three months working closely to develop a new plan to more efficiently handle cruise traffic.
As a result of the discussions, several major changes were made to how guests arrive for their cruises, including:
-- Re-routing traffic
-- Better signage
-- Moving traffic off city streets
-- Improving communications
“We are thankful for the assistance of City staff, Chief Greg Mullen, as well as SCDOT in helping us to better handle cruise traffic,” said Jim Newsome, president & CEO of the SCSPA. “Effectively dealing with traffic has been raised in community meetings, and these changes will be put in place immediately.”
The plan will be implemented on February 15 when the first cruise ship of 2010 departs from the Port of Charleston on an 11-night voyage for the eastern Caribbean.
Most cruise ships departing from Charleston bring about 350 to 400 cars that park in SCSPA storage buildings and lots. Limousines, taxis and buses deliver the remaining guests. Importantly, cruise traffic does not add to rush hour congestion as ships leaving from Charleston typically board from the middle of the day until the early afternoon.
The new route to the Passenger Terminal aims to get traffic on the east side of the peninsula as soon as possible. Cars from Interstate 26 are directed to Exit 219B, Morrison Drive. Vehicles are routed south down Morrison Drive and East Bay Street, which handles about 20,000 cars a day.
From East Bay, vehicles are directed east on Chapel Street to Washington Street, east on Charlotte Street, and south down Concord Street. Concord Street ends at the new gate where cars will now enter the terminal, “Gate 2” at the corner of Concord & Laurens streets.
Another key element of the plan is new signage posted along the route. More than a dozen permanent and temporary signs will help guide guests along the route and inform locals on cruise embarkation days. The SCSPA contracts for off-duty CPD officers to assist with traffic control.
All cars, including drop-offs, will now enter Union Pier Terminal directly from Concord Street at the new access point at “Gate 2.” Limos, taxis and buses will continue to enter the Union Pier terminal main gate at 32 Washington Street.
Walk-ups are not permitted, so passengers should not be dropped-off in or around Market Street or the Passenger Terminal. Drop-offs should proceed through the Gate 2 entrance at Concord and Laurens streets.
The SCSPA has striped lanes inside its gates to effectively move traffic off City streets and place it within Union Pier Terminal. Approximately 250 cars can now be lined up on the terminal - not on City streets - as guests arrive for their cruise. The combination of the new entry point and the striping should effectively take cars and lines off local streets.
A final yet important action was to establish better communications both with cruise guests and the public. This includes sharing the details of the new plan with neighbors and cruises visitors.
In addition, residents, merchants and businesses can now receive regular updates and reminders on ship activity with a new “Cruise Notice” e-mail service. Nearly 1,700 people are already signed up.
When cruise ships are taking on passengers to embark from Charleston, there are two street closings, typically from 11 a.m. until around 3:30 p.m., including:
-- Concord Street just north of North Market
-- Washington Street just south of Hasell Street
Although streets are closed briefly during embarkations, there no closings during the debarkation process when guests get off ships after completing a cruise that started in Charleston. Port-of-calls also do not require street closings.
After traffic tie ups around the Passenger Terminal during a ship that departed in November, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and Newsome agreed to work on a collaborative, fresh approach to more effectively managing cruise traffic.
Details on the cruise traffic plan, directions and the “Cruise Notice” are available online at: http://www.scspa.com/cruises.