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Safety analysis of North Charleston roadway part of pedestrian bridge study

Bike on Cosgrove.jpg (copy)

A bicyclist crosses traffic on Cosgrove Ave near Azalea Drive on April 25, 2019, in North Charleston. Charleston County is funding a study of Azalea Drive that will examine potential safety fixes. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

NORTH CHARLESTON — A roadway is being targeted for safety improvements after hundreds of residents petitioned county leaders to look into ways to make the street more suitable for cyclists and pedestrians.

Charleston County Council voted July 27 to approve a traffic study of Azalea Drive that will examine improving bike and pedestrian access along the 3-mile long North Charleston street.

Called a road diet study, the Azalea Drive analysis has been rolled into the county's $175,000 Better North Bridge study, which County Council voted July 27 to pay for with transportation sales tax money.

The North Bridge study is exploring conceptual designs for a pedestrian bridge that would run adjacent to the traffic bridge on S.C. Highway 7.

The county's Public Works department will complete the Azalea Drive study, and staff will present the results to County Council. 

The county's decision to fund the safety analysis comes after mobility advocacy nonprofit Charleston Moves spearheaded a petition in June that garnered more than 200 signatures from people calling attention to the road's lack of accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians.

Advocates pointed to the section of the roadway that runs between Leeds and Cosgrove avenues. The stretch doesn't have a dedicated space for bikers, said Katie Zimmerman, executive director of Charleston Moves.

The intersection of Cosgrove Avenue and Azalea Drive is also problematic, Zimmerman said. The intersection's nonfunctioning crossing signals and faded crosswalks pose safety hazards, she said. The intersection is home to an elementary school, neighborhood grocery and bus stops.

"I think it's dangerous," Zimmerman said. "There's a constant movement of vehicles at that intersection. You’re never sure, as a person on a bike, when it's safe to go.”

The traffic study of Azalea Drive will analyze the possibility of restriping Azalea from four travel lanes to two, and installing a center turn lane and a bike lane on each side of the road.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation would include the restriping in its upcoming resurfacing project along Azalea Drive, the county said.

The road diet study is expected to be completed in August.

"If the results are favorable, the SCDOT will fund the final plans and complete the construction," said County Spokeswoman Taylor Green.

The Cosgrove Avenue and Azalea Drive crossing will also tie into the new pedestrian bridge, which would run across the Ashley River and connect West Ashley to North Charleston. 

Charleston County is developing a conceptual design and hopes to obtain funding through the federal Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant.

Richard Turner, the county's deputy director for public works, has said the location of the new bridge would be to the right of those driving from West Ashley to North Charleston along the North Bridge.

The Azalea Road and Cosgrove Avenue intersection will play a key role in providing access to the structure, Zimmerman said.

"Azalea is going to be the major connecting piece where the new bridge touches down," she said. "Azalea is going to need to be made safe.”

The county's North Bridge Study is a collaborative effort between the cities of Charleston and North Charleston, DOT, Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments and Charleston Moves. 

The bridge has claimed the lives of several individuals over the years. 

There have been three fatal collisions involving pedestrians or cyclists from 2017 to 2021, according to the state's Department of Public Safety.

The department did not have Azalea Drive cyclist and walker fatality numbers available July 30. 

Reach Rickey Dennis at 937-4886. Follow him on Twitter @RCDJunior.

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