Richland County Transportation Committee says ‘no’ to Millwood Avenue fixes, for now

Published: Apr. 23, 2019 at 7:38 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Long term fixes to make Millwood Avenue near downtown Columbia safer will have to wait, as the South Carolina Department of Transportation seeks funding to make it safer for both pedestrians and drivers.

According to SCDOT data, three people have been hit and killed in the last four years on Millwood Avenue and more than 150 car crashes took place between 2015 and 2018.

Last week, SCDOT released its findings of a two-month long study into safety concerns on the busy street. With more than 22,000 cars traveling the roadway every day, SCDOT says cameras installed near the intersection of Millwood Avenue and House Street revealed several close calls between pedestrians and vehicles.

The findings prompted the department to suggest several long term and short term solutions. On Tuesday, the findings were presented to the Richland County Transportation Committee. Its members are appointed by state representatives within the county. However, the committee decided not to vote on whether to approve funding for the project, instead of asking for more stakeholders, including other local government agencies, to step forward to help with the cost.

“Try to look to see if the city will pitch in, SCDOT will pitch in and then we’d pitch in that would make it a lot easier to get it done,” committee chairman James Brown said. “So if the others step up to the plate and will contribute to the project then that’s a possibility.”

Roger Sears, a committee member, proposed a motion that would secure $500,000 in CTC funding to help get the long term solutions in motion. When that motion failed, he proposed $250,000 in committee funding, which also failed to get a second.

“We want to make sure we’re providing pedestrians a safe option at which point, if they choose to utilize that safe option is not something we have a lot of control over,” Lori Campbell with SCDOT said.

Amy Johnson Ely, the director of Palmetto Cycling Coalition, said she is fearful to ride her bike on Millwood Avenue.

“There are too many cars and they’re driving too fast,” she said.

She commends the DOT’s work to provide safety solutions to the corridor but said public safety should not be a political issue.

“I hope those short term fixes become part of the long term landscape because they’re very good,” she said.

Representative Seth Rose (D-Richland) has been instrumental in the original SCDOT study and said other funding sources exist for the short term solutions, but more needs to be done locally.

“We watched footage of small children being nearly hit by cars trying to cross this intersection, something has to give and we need to do something,” Rose said.

Both Rep. Rose and Campbell said the short term fixes, such as pedestrian islands and hawk signal beacons are feasible and work to implement those measures could begin in the near future. Millwood Avenue is slated to be repaved by the department in four years, which without adequate funding, could prove the same timetable for the proposed long term solutions.

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