CONWAY — Students Jessica Rougas and Alex Coles say that getting from their apartments at the Monarch to the Coastal Carolina University campus on the other side of S.C. 544 is like playing the computer game Frogger.
Coles, a junior, said hes had some close calls crossing the busy highway but has learned to time his crossings from one side to the middle and then from the middle to the other side. Its reminiscent of the old game in which the player has to time the frogs hops to keep it safe from oncoming traffic.
Both were glad to hear that a traffic light may be installed at S.C. 544 and Founders Drive, which is close to the new Monarch apartments.
The S.C. Department of Transportation began a study of the intersection about the time classes began for the fall, and the issue has received heightened community interest following the death of a CCU freshman trying to get across the road.
DOT traffic engineer Michael Bethea said the state is close to completing a study of the intersection that will determine if a traffic light is warranted. He said he doesnt believe there is enough traffic currently to justify a light, but one can be installed if future traffic projections are taken into consideration.
The light will have a button pedestrians can use to change the signal on S.C. 544 to red so they can cross, just like at the intersections of S.C. 544 and University Boulevard and S.C. 544 and Jackson Bluff Road. Bethea said the existing buttons are used sometimes, indicating that students either jaywalk or dont wait for the light to change at the intersections.
I think they might be impatient, said Rougas, a sophomore.
She and Coles each said theyd use the buttons.
CCU freshman Elizabeth Gorshack of Warwick, N.Y., was killed early on the morning of Sept. 7 as she was trying to cross S.C. 544 between the lights at University Boulevard and Jackson Bluff Road. The Cove and University Place apartment complexes are both near the Jackson Bluff intersection.
Junior Avery Moore, who lives at University Place, takes the shuttle bus that stops between the two complexes when going to and from campus. He said he thinks students might not use the signal buttons because theyre just not used to them.
Likewise, Derrik Wynn, a junior who lives at The Cove, doesnt walk to campus. He walks around the area some, he said, but doesnt cross S.C. 544 because of the traffic.
Bethea said he believes the DOT study will recommend the installation of a light at Founders Drive, and that the equipment be outfitted with a button so students can stop traffic on S.C. 544 to get across.
Bethea said that the light will be green for Founders Drive traffic when it is red for vehicles on S.C. 544. But he said the green light on Founders may be delayed a few seconds after the S.C. 544 traffic is stopped to allow pedestrians time to get into the crosswalk where they will be clearly visible to traffic coming from Founders.
The school also is hoping the DOT will OK the use of countdown signals at each crossing that will tell pedestrians how long before the light changes, said Eddie Dyer, executive vice president at Coastal Carolina University.
Dyer said some students who skateboard or ride bikes to campus from the University Place area to campus use the Jackson Bluff crossing and cut through a residential subdivision to get to school.
Bethea said that the DOT also will recommend that the university and/or Conway police patrol S.C. 544 near CCU for jaywalkers.
He estimated the signal at Founders Drive will cost about $100,000, but said the state cant pay because Founders is not a state road.
Dyer said the university will try to seek some funding help from the County Transportation Committee, but if none is forthcoming, the school will foot the bill.
We will spend whatever we need to spend for the safety of our students, he said.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.