Do pedestrians need a new bridge?

A safety study has recommended modernizing the pedestrian bridge over the Septima P. Clark Parkway to bring it up to handicapped-access standards and to make it look safer and more attractive. The study also suggest upgrading caution signs for walkers and motorists.

Modernizing the existing decades-old pedestrian bridge and improving caution signs are the most feasible ways to improve safety for those walking across the Septima P. Clark Parkway.

Those are the key recommendations in a draft final report to be given to the state Department of Transportation.

The state-financed $25,000 study was conducted after two College of Charleston students were killed within 14 months of each other attempting to cross the six-lane highway, commonly known as the Crosstown.

Lynnette Ranz, whose daughter, Lindsey, 21, died last January after being hit by a pickup truck at the intersection, said she still favors construction of a new pedestrian bridge as the safest option.

She agreed with the study’s recommendations to improve caution signs for pedestrians and motorists and a recommendation to remove some palmetto trees along the parkway’s south side that obscure where pedestrians stand at Coming Street before crossing the highway.

Democratic state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, who won approval for the study, said he is “not happy at all” with the study and has “a lot of concerns and questions” as to its thoroughness. It was conducted by the consulting firm CDM Smith through the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments.

Gilliard said he believes spending the $500,000 estimated cost to upgrade the existing pedestrian bridge would be a “waste of money” because that bridge is obsolete. The bridge at near Rutledge Avenue was built in 1975 when pedestrian traffic patterns were different than today.

Gilliard said he’s hoping to persuade lawmakers to approve building a new pedestrian bridge at Coming Street and the parkway, which the study says would cost an estimated $1 million to $1.5 million.

Gilliard and Ranz were briefed on the report Monday by the Council of Governments.

Ron Mitchum, executive director of the council, said the study and its recommendations will be sent to the Transportation Department after the draft is finalized in the next few weeks.

The study says improving caution signs and rehabilitating the old pedestrian bridge to make it “appear safer and more attractive” is the best option for pedestrian safety, feasibility, and cost benefits.

The bridge also needs reworking to comply with handicapped-access regulations.

A pedestrian bridge at the intersection of Coming Street and the parkway would be the safest way to cross at that intersection, but it’s no guarantee that pedestrians will use it, the study said. It cited previous studies showing that pedestrians tend to use street-level crossings if they are the most direct route available.

Among some of the other recommendations in the study are:

Installing signs alerting walkers to the location of the old pedestrian bridge to increase usage.

Placing a public bus route on Coming Street.

Increasing the amount of time the pedestrian walk signals provide for crossing the Septima P. Clark Parkway at Coming Street.

Adding signs to help reduce traffic speed on the parkway at the Coming Street intersection.

The other College of Charleston student killed at the intersection was Hannah-Rose Elledge, 21, who was on a one-year visit from Nottingham University in England. She and a friend were hit by a Jeep Cherokee in the walkway at Coming Street on Nov. 17, 2012. She was dragged under the Jeep for about 129 feet and died. Her friend suffered a leg injury.

In both of the fatalities police faulted the pedestrians for walking against the crossing signal.