Safety Audits: Septima P. Clark Parkway, Savannah Highway, Highway 61

[March 7, 2023]

From the end of January to early March, Charleston Moves joined the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), Kimley-Horn, Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG), Charleston County, and the City of Charleston (including police and fire) for several Road Safety Audits (RSAs). The group studied:

  • US 17 on the peninsula (Septima P. Clark Parkway)
  • US 17 from Wappoo Road to Hughes Road (just past Bees Ferry)
  • SC 61 from Wesley Drive to Savage Road

These include high-priority and/or high risk locations as identified in SCDOT’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Action Plan (PBSAP).

SCDOT has been coordinating RSAs for several years now, which are safety performance examinations of existing roadway corridors by independent, multidisciplinary audit teams. The participants are charged with considering the safety of all roadway users, examining potential safety issues, and identifying opportunities for safety improvements. The data and suggestions following the RSA are examined by the consultant and compiled into a report. Then, proposed improvement concepts go in front of the public for input. (As a recent example of the process, and a reminder, the public input meeting for RSA concepts on the peninsula occurred last year, and improvements such as a bike lane on King Street will go up for a City Council vote in a couple of weeks.)

A typical RSA takes multiple days, and involves:

  1. an in-person meeting to review the corridor, including existing conditions, crash history, traffic volumes, and any projects in the works that affect the corridor;
  2. field reviews during morning and evening peak-periods — this involves the team walking the corridor together to observe goings-on and identify improvements that are low-cost and can provide better safety for users;
  3. another in-person meeting to summarize the feedback gained during the field reviews.

All of us participating provided many suggestions for the safety of people on bikes, foot and transit, ranging from corridor-wide to intersection-specific, and from simple to more robust. Your close-call reports to our database for these areas were provided to the project team to help guide suggestions.

These corridors include several important intersections that require alterations to properly serve both current and future bike/ped users. Some of those are: connections from the West Ashley Greenway further west toward the Beaufort section of the East Coast Greenway and crossing Savannah Highway to the neighborhoods; addressing the Maryville Bikeway crossing at 61; improving the bike/ped safety and capacity of the West Ashley Greenway and Maryville Bikeway connection at Wappoo Road and Savannah Highway; access from St. Andrews Boulevard to the new Ashley River Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge; connections between the Medical District, schools and neighborhoods downtown.

Some of the many improvements suggested for consideration include:

  • adding laddered, high-visibility crosswalks and pedestrian signals
  • adding median refuges, bulb-outs, and flashing beacons
  • shifting crosswalks at right-turn slip lanes
  • adding green paint to bike lanes and through intersections
  • adding connections to new Ashley River Bridge
  • addressing signal timing conflicts
  • adding more leading pedestrian intervals
  • adding a mid-block crossing for the Bikeway at 61
  • adding raised medians
  • trimming vegetation growing over sidewalks
  • cleaning sand and debris from sidewalks
  • incorporating wide sidewalks with new development
  • improve lighting along 61 and 17 in West Ashley, and at the pedestrian bridge over the Crosstown
  • narrowing lanes of travel on Crosstown to 11′
  • installing wayfinding/signage

There will be an unprecedented increase in the volume of people on bikes and foot that will come when the Ashley River crossing is built, connecting to the Greenway and Bikeway, as well as the future multi-use paths coming with the Glenn McConnell Parkway widening and the Main/17 project. It is imperative that these key connectors are upgraded to properly accommodate residents and visitors who walk, bike and access various transit routes daily — now, and in the future.

NEXT STEPS: proposed improvement concepts will go before the public when they are ready.