Improvements in the works for dangerous Avondale intersection getting

Pedestrians cross Savannah Highway at Magnolia Road in Avondale on Tuesday night.

West Ashley resident Brandon Norman was crossing Savannah Highway in Avondale Point one night last June when he was struck by a truck and thrown 80 feet.

He was in a coma for weeks and spent four months in the hospital. He still struggles with the aftermath of a head injury, and is awaiting extensive knee surgery. He can't work.

Norman, 38, is one of five people struck and injured by vehicles since 2009 in the vibrant stretch of bars, restaurants and shops west of the Ashley. The most recent accident happened only about a week ago. Charleston police say none of the pedestrians were killed, and all of them were crossing against the light.

But city officials acknowledge that the Avondale intersection of Savannah Highway and Magnolia Road could be safer for pedestrians. And plans are in the works for improvements to make the intersection safer, said Jerry Eberling, the city of Charleston's director of parks, who also oversees capital projects.

The improvements are being paid for with a grant from the state Department of Transportation, Eberling said, and will include: a planted median, a turn lane, new signals and a designated pedestrian walkway.

It's a state DOT project, he said, but the city is working in cooperation with the department to complete it.

Eberling said he's not sure when work will begin, but it will be completed by November. "It's been in the works for a couple of years," he said of the project.

Ross Eastwood, the project manager, said it's been a struggle to get it done. He had to seek bids a few times before he got the right price and the right contractor, he said.

L.J. Contractors recently landed the $356,000 job, Eberling said.

Avondale has become an increasingly popular nightspot in recent years, which likely has contributed to the problem, Charleston police Sgt. Matt Wojslawowicz said.

All five vehicle and pedestrian accidents happened between 8 p.m. and 1:30 a.m., he said. None of the drivers were intoxicated, he said.

Wojslawowicz said the intersection isn't poorly designed. Rather, he said, it's a busy area with many people walking around.

All of the pedestrians who were hit were crossing against the light, he said. Three of them were in a crosswalk, and the two others were outside the crosswalk.

He also said drivers need to slow down in the busy area, and pedestrians need to obey the traffic signals.

Norman said he thinks the intersection desperately needs improvements, and that the lights alerting pedestrians to walk need to give them more time to cross Savannah Highway.

Norman said he was in an Avondale bar April 19 when he heard that another pedestrian had been struck by a vehicle near the spot he had been hit about 10 months earlier. "I was in shock and awe when I saw it happen again."

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