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‘Enough is enough’ neighbors say, after three pedestrian deaths in four years on Millwood Avenue

Published: Mar. 11, 2019 at 8:01 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - One road in Columbia seems to be an unfortunate magnet for pedestrian deaths. It’s a spot that will come as no surprise to longtime Columbia residents of Millwood Avenue.

Three people have died there in the past four years: one in 2016, one in 2017 and one in 2019. Neighbors tell WIS nothing has been done about it up until now. But even as SCDOT studies that stretch of road, those who live there are still holding their breath.

“How many people gotta get killed in our neighborhood for them to put up a light or pedestrian stop?” asked Angela Hall. “It’s awful.”

Angela Hall lives near Millwood Avenue. When she saw WIS out shooting a story about pedestrian safety on the road, she insisted upon being interviewed. She said she knew the last person who was killed on this stretch of roadway.

“It’s real sad how much taxes we pay and we can’t get anything done in this neighborhood,” Hall said.

While you see several poorly-lit and marked crosswalks, you also see a considerable amount of jaywalking. Many people crossing from the Lyon Street Neighborhood side towards the Melrose Heights side of the neighborhood. It’s a two-fold issue: pedestrians might wait minutes trying to cross at the crosswalk. There’s no traffic signal, no signage, and no stop sign. The cars rarely stop for a pedestrian to cross the street. But, on the flip side, pedestrians are walking across the street anyway and trying to fit between the cars going at a high rate of speed.

The road is supposed to be a 35 mile-per-hour zone. But WIS took a radar gun out there and found not many people abide by that speed. On average, people are traveling around 45 mph, peeling around blind spot corners like the one near House and Tree Streets.

“It’s so loud it sounds like an interstate and it feels very dangerous,” said Representative Seth Rose. “There’s already been three right here and enough is enough.”

State Representative Seth Rose, of Richland County, is now involved after neighbors like Marvin Heller, the president of the Lyon Street Neighborhood Association, came to him and other city leaders desperate for a change.

“I’m a lifelong resident. I’ve seen so much speed,” said Heller. “I’m not here to lay blame. I’m only asking that we change, we make this better, we make this safer.”

Heller said the area is transient and there are more renters than owners with a sizeable homeless population. Heller said Millwood Avenue doesn’t get the same attention as other parts of the city.

“What I’m saying here is… the value of a person’s life here doesn’t seem to matter as much as elsewhere in the city,” Heller said. “I think it’s an equity issue.”

As they wait for SCDOT to conclude its study, neighbors are asking for the city to shine a little light or better yet, give them a signal that their safety matters.

If there are no “walk” or “do not walk” signals, cars are supposed to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, according to state law. Neighbors want to see a light there at that specific spot near House and Tree Streets where the most recent death occurred. But, the pedestrian who died in that incident was not in the crosswalk, according to highway patrol. The DOT study should be complete by mid-April.

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