C of C president wants campus streets to remain one-way

College of Charleston leaders are hoping there's time to reverse a plan to convert the portions of Coming and St. Philip streets that run through the downtown campus to two-way thoroughfares.

But Hernan Pena, the city's director of traffic and transportation, said it's unlikely the plan can be turned around. City Council approved it in 2012, he said. The changes haven't yet been made because city officials haven't come up with the $300,000 it will take to implement them. They're working on finding the money now, he said.

Advocates of the plan, including Mayor Joe Riley, said making St. Philip and Coming streets two-way - all the way to the Septima P. Clark Expressway - will actually improve safety, since two-way streets tend to be slower than one-way.

But College of Charleston President George Benson is hoping for a reprieve because he thinks converting the one-way roads to allow two-way traffic would make them less safe and more chaotic. "We have voiced concerns on a regular basis" since the plan was approved, Benson said. "It's a hot-button issue for us."

He thinks the city created the plan without considering how streets that run through a college campus are used differently than other urban streets.

Often more than 13,000 students, faculty and staff members are on campus on a given day, he said.

When they city studied the plan, it "they didn't consider the service vehicles, bicycles, skateboards and pedestrians" that flood Coming and St. Philip streets on the campus.

He also said he thinks the city's study mainly consisted of traffic counts. "My recommendation is we do another study," Benson said, one that better considers the way the streets are used on campus.

Benson said the college is willing to work on such a study with the city, and to pay for it.

The one-way streets simply are much safer in a campus environment, Benson said, and they allow non-car traffic to flow more smoothly.

College officials also would like to widen the sidewalk and add a bicycle lane to St. Philip Street along the Cistern Yard, he said. "If you make the street two-way, you won't have room."

Pena said making Coming and St. Philip streets two-way streets would better disperse between two streets traffic that is moving north and south on the peninsula. And two-way streets tend to slow down traffic, he said, making the streets safer.

When Beaufain Street and a large portion of Wentworth Street became two-way, they were well-received by neighborhood residents, he said. There were reductions both in speed and accidents.

Pena said he doesn't know if the college's request will be considered. City staffers were directed by City Council to make the changes. "There was a lot of discussion" before the plan was accepted, Pena said. "It went through a long process."

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.