Septima Clark Parkway Signals

Two pedestrians cross the Septima Clark Parkway and Coming Street intersection Tuesday, July 24, 2018. The City of Charleston has added new pedestrian signals at the Coming Street intersection, which facilitate a multi-phase approach for pedestrians to cross the northbound and southbound lanes of the parkway separately. Those crossing the parkway at this intersection will be instructed to cross only to the median and to then wait for the next “walk” signal before continuing. Brad Nettles/Staff

After years of mounting concerns and pedestrian deaths, Charleston city officials have unveiled a series of improvements they say will increase safety on a major thoroughfare: the Septima P. Clark Parkway. 

The parkway's intersection with Coming Street in particular has seen at least four pedestrian deaths since 2012, drawing ire from critics who say its poor design doesn't give people enough time to safely cross the street. City officials said on Tuesday that crews had installed new pedestrian signals, put up signage and improved access to a nearby pedestrian bridge — changes they say are the first steps toward a safer Crosstown, as the parkway is commonly known. 

"Safety of all modes of transportation has to be a priority," said Keith Benjamin, director of the city's Department of Traffic and Transportation. "I feel that it's my responsibility, and the city's, that people feel safe."

The improvements are as follows:

  • Two-stage crossing signals at the Coming Street intersection that instruct pedestrians crossing the Crosstown to walk to the median and wait for the next "walk" signal before continuing to the other side.
  • Advanced walk signals at the Crosstown's intersections with Ashley Avenue and President Street gives pedestrians several seconds head start to cross the roadway before a green light is given to parallel vehicle traffic.
  • "No turn on red" signs have also been put up at the Ashley and President intersections to increase pedestrian safety.
  • New signs direct walkers, runners and bicyclists to a pedestrian bridge on Todd Street.
  • A new pedestrian bridge access point allows access from the Crosstown.

Officials also stated that traffic signals at all Crosstown intersections between Lockwood Drive and Coming have been retimed as part of a city-wide signal retiming effort over the last year. 

Signals at East Bay Street and Morrison Drive, as well as on President Street, Courtenay Drive, Folly Road, Maybank Highway, Savannah Highway, Old Towne Road and Sam Rittenberg Boulevard, and various intersections on Johns Island have also been retimed.  

But for some, the changes are too little, too late.

Lynnette Ranz's daughter Lindsey was 21 years old when she was fatally struck by a pick-up truck while jogging at the Crosstown and Coming in January 2014. Ranz was the second College of Charleston student killed at the intersection in a span of two weeks. 

Crosstown Hit and Run (copy)

Lindsey Rantz was killed in January 2014 on the Septima P. Clark Parkway at Coming Street. Brad Nettles/Staff

Her death prompted a study on whether a pedestrian bridge was possible at the intersection. The study fell short of such action, instead recommending improved caution signs and modernizing the decades-old pedestrian bridge near the Rutledge Avenue intersection.

These changes, Ranz said, fall short of making the area truly safe.

"It's the entrance to the interstate," she said. "People are flying through there. They're not slowing down or even wanting to stop. There's nowhere for police to do enforcement."

Ranz said she will grieve her daughter's death for the rest of her life, but is dedicated to working with city and state officials to make sure safety improvements are put in place. 

The changes announced on Tuesday, she said, are a start but more needs to be done. 

Benjamin said the city is dedicated to continuing improvements to the roadway and that the newly-implemented signals and signage are only the first steps in an ongoing effort. 

Other potential changes, like converting Line Street into a two-way road, are being explored, he said. 

"These are not the only solutions," Benjamin said. "We have to acknowledge where we're missing the ball." 

pedestrians police.jpg (copy)

Charleston police block off a lane of the Septima P. Clark Parkway as they investigate an accident where a pedestrian killed Monday, April 9, 2018 in Charleston. Grace Beahm Alford/ Staff

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.