Panel advances bill that orders study at deadly Charleston intersection

Pedestrians and cyclists on Coming Street make it across the Crosstown's southbound lanes Tuesday as vehicles at the terminus of I-26 wait. Buy this photo

COLUMBIA - An impassioned speech by a Charleston representative and a tearful plea by a mother Tuesday helped advance a bill that would order a study into building an overpass at Coming Street and the Crosstown.

Rep. Wendell Gilliard's bill, which is co-sponsored by several Lowcountry representatives, was inspired by the deaths of two 21-year-old College of Charleston students who were killed 14 months apart and attempting to cross the highway.

Lindsey Ranz, 21, was out running and darted into the highway in front of a motorist who was entering the intersection on a yellow light on Jan 13. Hannah-Rose Elledge, 21, ran across the highway on a red light with a friend. They were struck about 2:30 a.m., Nov. 17, 2012. Elledge died, and her friend was injured.

In February, a Post and Courier investigation into the deaths revealed that the intersection is almost impossible to safely cross before the lights turn red. Pedestrians have no way to know that because no signs at the crosswalk warn them to stop in the median island and wait for the next set of lights.

Gilliard, D-Charleston, argued before the House Motor Vehicles Subcommittee that the crosswalk at Coming Street and the Crosstown Expressway, officially known as Septima P. Clark Parkway, is obsolete. He said elected officials need to act swiftly to protect the lives of others.

"What doesn't make sense is to have two deaths in an area," Gilliard told the committee. "We have warnings now. Besides the near misses, we're now going to funerals."

Lynnette Ranz, Lindsey Ranz's mother, also spoke to the committee. She played several video clips of drivers who continuously ran the light long after it had turned red, prompting some gasps from the crowd and disapproving head shaking from members of the panel.

"My Lindsey will never graduate," Ranz told the panel as her voice broke. "She'll never go on another mission trip. She won't be able to touch this world with her loving acts of kindness. I'm pleading that we do the study and we fix the problem. I want this bill to pass before (the intersection) takes another life."

Rep. Joe Daning, R-Goose Creek, said it was difficult to listen to Ranz's testimony. He said the cost of the feasibility study - which Gilliard said was about $10,000 - was nothing when compared to a life.

Daning added he's familiar with the area and has seen the driving as depicted in Ranz's videos.

"I think they're just focused on where they're headed," said Daning of drivers at that intersection. "I don't think they pay that much attention to the lights until somebody hits the brakes and they think, 'Oh, I've got to stop.'"

Meanwhile, the city of Charleston has requested pedestrian caution signs for the intersection. The city also has asked the state to install equipment to encourage pedestrians to watch only the pedestrian crossing signals and to place signs ahead of the intersection cautioning motorists that they are approaching a pedestrian crossing.

But until the study is ordered and the intersection is made safer for others, Ranz said she'll continue her efforts to bring attention to the intersection where her 21-year-old lost her life.

"I believe the intersection itself, the way that is set up, is why we don't have Lindsey any longer," she said. "It took the life of our Lindsey."

Post and Courier staff writer Doug Pardue contributed to this story.

Cynthia Roldan can be reached at 708-5891.

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