It lives: Legislature overrides governor’s veto of Five Points road money

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The South Carolina Legislature overturned Republican Gov. Henry McMaster’s veto of $850,000 that will go toward a sprawling road and pedestrian safety overhaul in Columbia’s Five Points shopping and nightlife district.

The S.C. House and Senate overturned the governor’s veto of the Five Points money on Tuesday evening. The state Legislature had previously approved $850,000 in the coming year’s budget that was for a pedestrian safety project in Five Points. That money will pair with $4 million the state Department of Transportation already has set aside for the project, for a total of $4.85 million.

That extra $850,000 got swept up in a number of vetoes issued by McMaster last week. He particularly took aims at earmarks in the state budget, saying in a letter to the General Assembly that many of them “lack sufficient context, description, explanation of merit, or justification as to how the recipient intends to spend the funds.”

He also said he wants the Legislature to “create a public merit-based competitive grants process” for items that are typically earmarked.

But on Tuesday the Legislature overturned a number of the governor’s vetoes, including one that contained the Five Points road money. The veto with the Five Points funding was overwhelmingly overturned, including a 38-5 vote in the state Senate.

State Rep. Seth Rose, a Columbia Democrat, pushed to get the $850,000 in this year’s budget. He was grateful the Legislature overturned McMaster’s veto.

“This is a transformative project, and I couldn’t be more excited or proud to have it fully funded,” Rose told The State.

While the plans have not yet been finalized, a study commissioned last summer by the transportation department suggested several changes in Five Points, including reducing the number of traffic lanes along sections of Harden and Devine streets, improving pedestrian signals and crosswalks, and putting in curb “bump-outs” that would reduce pedestrian crossing distances and times.

The Department of Transportation is set to have a public information meeting about the project from 4-7 p.m. on Aug. 3 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

Last year the Department of Transportation published a road safety audit for Harden Street through Five Points. Parts of that report showed the corridor is one of the most dangerous in South Carolina for pedestrians and bicyclists.

According to the audit, from Jan. 1, 2013, through Dec. 31, 2018, there were 232 vehicular crashes in that corridor and there was a “high frequency” of crashes involving pedestrians or bicyclists, which helped trigger the road safety audit. The audit noted, because of its commercial and entertainment uses, Five Points experiences a “high volume” of pedestrians throughout the year.

Of the 232 crashes reported in the audit, a total of 17 of them involved bicyclists or pedestrians during that time period.

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