A study to determine whether a pedestrian crossing bridge is feasible over Charleston's Septima P. Clark Parkway where two College of Charleston students have been killed by cars will begin in two weeks.
That study is to be completed by January so the General Assembly will have the information it needs to determine whether to pay for such a bridge, Ron Patton, a state transportation official said Tuesday at a public meeting in Charleston.
Patton, chief of location and design for the highway department, said the study also would evaluate traffic and pedestrian flow along the parkway and traffic patterns in the tightly packed neighborhoods that boarder the highway, also known as the Crosstown. Some residents at the meeting voiced particular concern about speeding and trucks on their narrow residential streets.
The study also will look at why few use the existing pedestrian bridge a few blocks west of the Crosstown's intersection with Coming Street where the students were killed.
Patton spoke to about 35 people gathered at Nichols Chapel AME Church on Kennedy Street, just a block from the Crosstown.
Democratic State Rep Wendell Gilliard of Charleston organized the meeting, and brought Patton from Columbia to see the intersection and neighborhood firsthand.
Gilliard and Patton agreed that the neighborhood has changed substantially since the intersection was built. It is now home to many seniors, college students and residential revitalization efforts.
People no longer use the old pedestrian crossing because it's not where people walk and it's at least 30-years-old and obsolete, Gilliard said.
Gilliard helped obtain the $15,000 state funding for the study after being moved by the concerns of Lynnette Ranz, the mother Lindsey Ranz, 21, who was struck and killed in the early evening hours of Jan. 13.
She was the second College of Charleston student killed trying to cross the intersection on foot within 14 months. Many pedestrians who used the crosswalk at the time described it as unsafe because it didn't allow enough time for a person to safely walk.
In the weeks after her daughter's death, Lynnette Ranz set up a foundation in her daughter's memory to promote improved safety at the intersection and to raise money for that purpose. Ranz believes a pedestrian overpass is a must to address an obvious danger.
Patton said he couldn't hazard a guess at what a pedestrian bridge would cost,
City traffic officials, with the approval of the state, which oversees the U.S. Highway, have already studied the intersection and installed warning signs telling people that the eight-lane intersection is meant to be crossed by pedestrians in two stages: First they are to walk to the median. Then they should wait for the second green walk light before crossing the next lanes of traffic. Neither green walk light stays on long enough for a pedestrian to safely cross the entire expressway.
At the time of Lindsey Ranz's death the intersection contained no warning signs. Many pedestrians started running when the green walk light turned to a flashing warning sign counting down the seconds before traffic resumed.
Police did not ticket either of the drivers involved in the two fatal pedestrian accidents, saying that the students were at fault for entering the roadway on the wrong color light. Ranz was running in place at the curb; but, according to a witness, started out across the intersection before the light turned to walk. The other dead pedestrian, Hannah-Rose Elledge, was a visiting college student from England. She was struck Nov. 17, 2012 when she ran across the highway while motorists had the right-of-way.
Reach Doug Pardue at 937-5558