Low Line, high hopes

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imagined rendering of the lowcountry low line
Imagined rendering of the Lowcountry Low Line | Provided by Friends of the Lowcountry Low Line

How the Low Line will reconnect Charleston

Ah, I-26.  Some see it as the main artery of Charleston’s infrastructure, providing crucial connectivity between the tri-counties. Others see it as more of a pain in the you-know-what, drawing a line down the center of downtown, and in doing so, creating major division between its neighborhoods.

But that all could soon change – with the construction of the Lowcountry Low Line.

What: Over a mile + a half of railroad that’s no longer in use. The Low Line would convert the railroad into to a walkable, linear park. It would, in part, serve as a pedestrian bridge across the “fault line” forged by the construction of I-26. Think: NYC’s High Line… but ground-level. 🛤️

When: The project is very much in its infancy, so a completion date hasn’t been set yet— but the organization Friends of the Lowcountry Low Line did lay out a step-by-step plan for getting it all done. The city of Charleston checked a crucial part of step one off the list this past December when it purchased right-of-way for the tracks from Norfolk Southern.

How: The Friends of the Lowcountry Low Line will work with the surrounding communities,  local + national philanthropic organizations, + the city to raise funds, design, + build the proposed park. While the price tag is still TBD, both state + federal grants will be sought out to assist in covering costs.

map of the land purchased for the lowcountry low line
Land purchased for future spot of Lowcountry Low Line | CHStoday

Impact on Charleston: Right now, the city isn’t making any money off of the land— but a study projects the Low Line could generate upwards of five billion dollars in total economic output (including $90 million in total additional tourism spending). Perhaps more importantly, by making the park accessible for cyclists + pedestrians alike, the Low Line would improve accessibility to the entire peninsula— potentially relieving traffic on the roads, + giving nearby businesses a boost. 🚴

Hear proponents of the Low Line discuss the way in which the project could transform Charleston’s neighborhoods in this video.

imagined rendering of the lowcountry low line
A rendering of what part of the Low Line might look like north of the Crosstown. The way the park will look is expected to vary from section to section. | Photo provided by Friends of the Lowcountry Low Line

Living on the East Side, I often wish there were an easier way to get around the peninsulaespecially one that allows me to avoid the challenge of dodging all the confused-looking tourists that dart in front of my car on King Street.  I’m optimistic that the Low Line will be a major step in the right direction.

Until then, you can find me desperately driving in circles downtown, waiting for a parking space to open up near Queen Street Grocery.

What’s your opinion on the Low Line? Do you think it will achieve its goals of mitigating issues like gentrification + transportation? When would you like to see it open? Share your thoughts with us by replying to this email.

Jen, Multimedia Producer