Changes to Assembly Street planned to make it safer for walkers - - Columbia, South Carolina

Project to improve Assembly Street begins next month


New changes are coming to parts of Assembly Street in downtown Columbia.

University of South Carolina Junior Cody Wilkins welcomes the upgrades.  He crosses the busy street at Greene Street twice a day.
"Probably one of the busiest intersections around," he said. "Very difficult to cross."

"It's scary just crossing the street," said student Joseph Bloxhem. "You gotta be careful. You think the drivers are aware, but they're always not. Not always." 

USC and SC DOT officials say for the last year and a half they have been working on a pedestrian safety plan.  The focus of the project is on Assembly Street between Blossom and Pendleton Streets, where nearly 3,000 pedestrians walk daily. It's a number university leaders expect will double when the new Darla Moore School of Business opens early next year.

"We want to make sure that we are doing things that make our students, faculty, and staff feel like they're safe when they're crossing streets in the vicinity of campus," said USC Director of News Wes Hickman.

The plan includes more lighting and well-defined crosswalks, wider sidewalks, lined with trees and bushes to reduce speed.

Left turns on Greene Street will be eliminated. Parking along the center median will be removed and the median will be expanded to hold more pedestrians.
But the university's idea has critics, like student Tim Hines.
"I don't think it will help that much," he said. "Parking has never been an issue. The fact is that it's on a hill and you can't see both ways."

Wilkins disagrees and believes defined crosswalks, especially on Greene Street, will help.

"At this intersection, here because you can't see that there's a crosswalk," he said. "It adds to the danger. May as well not be there but if it's clearly marked it'll add more safety."

SCDOT will begin construction next month.

USC says the project will cost $4.7 million to complete.  The university says it will put $2.7 million towards construction. The rest will come from federal grants and the Richland County Transportation Committee.

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