CCU seeks to improve student safety while crossing Hwy. 544

Source: Audrey Biesk
Source: Audrey Biesk

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – Coastal Carolina University is seeking to improve the safety of students who need to cross S.C. 544 to get to campus.

An item on the Horry County Transportation Committee meeting agenda notes CCU is seeking to improve safety for pedestrians, primarily students, who are crossing S.C. 544 on to campus. It said the focal point is the area from approximately 100 yards east of Founder's Drive to where the "Y" intersection of U.S. 501 Business begins.

The goal is to make it "impossible" to walk across that section of the four-lane highway unless someone crosses at Founder's Drive, where there is a traffic signal and pedestrian timer.

CCU President David DeCenzo said he commissioned a study group the past 18 months to look at the opportunity of getting students safely across 544.

"We've been dealing with a good number of stakeholders from the Department of Transportation, the GSTATS group, local governments, and throughout that process we've been looking at what opportunities exist with the realization that it is a state road. It also is an evacuation route," DeCenzo said.

The South Carolina Department of Transpiration owns the road so DeCenzo said the plan must be financially feasible.

"Our plan at this point is that there are four groups that we are looking at, asking pretty much three of those groups for $300,000. The university would be the fourth partner in this to, in essence, fund the project," DeCenzo said.

CCU officials said part of the funding entails $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation, $300,000 from the S.C. Department of Transportation's pedestrian safety fund, $300,000 from Horry CTC, and $200,000 from CCU, which will also be responsible for any cost overruns.

SCDOT is designing and managing the project.

Some students said most of the time they choose to run across the four-lane highway.

"Every day, every day. I mean, I've done it before," Matt Kinchla said.

"They just run across dodging cars," Scarlet Oliveri said. "It's scary all the time."

Part of the problem, according to Kinchla, is due to the apartment complexes on the stretch of S.C. 544 down from Founder's Drive.

"They have all kinds of students, the Coastal Club is a little further and Patriots Point right here. All those students have to cross every day to get to campus and I mean, especially the lights are so long down here," Kinchla said. "People run red lights all the time and I've seen students almost get hit all the time."

DeCenzo is expected to present a S.C. 544 safety plan on Thursday, May 8, at 7 p.m. at the Horry County Courthouse.

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