Fort Mill Times

Options for student safety by Indian Land schools offered. Question is, which is best?

After more than 300 Indian Land residents petitioned for student pedestrian safety, the South Carolina Department of Transportation has presented several solutions. Now, the ball’s in Lancaster County School District’s court.

Based on recent studies, SCDOT district engineering administrator John McCarter said the department does not object to sidewalks along River Road and U.S. 521. However, the sidewalks’ placements will affect the price of the project.

One option includes a five-foot sidewalk along both sides of River Road from Indian Land High School to the stoplight at the intersection with U.S. 521 as well as a five-foot sidewalk along U.S. 521 in front of the school and a connection point to Indian Land Middle School’s campus.

“This alternate will require right-of-way and utility relocation,” McCarter wrote in a letter to Lancaster County School District safety and Transportation Director Bryan Vaughn. “In addition, students will remain very close to the traveling public on River Road. This alternate could also involve purchasing some of the parking lot of the office complex in the northwest quadrant.”

SCDOT District Four traffic engineer Victor Edwards, who prepared the project’s report, said this option requires a significant cost – a price tag of $375,000.

The second proposal requests the school district to build a sidewalk on the school’s property, on its side of the utility easements and outside of SCDOT right-of-way. This internal sidewalk would lead pedestrians to another sidewalk along U.S. 521.

“It removes the sidewalk on the side of River Road opposing the school, and provides for two connection points from Indian Land Middle School to Dobys Bridge Road and River Road at U.S. 521,” McCarter wrote. “This alternate provides pedestrians a safe and efficient manner to reach the signalized intersection consistent with a path they are current using.”

Option two’s estimated cost is much less, coming in at $148,400.

SDCOT’s investigation into pedestrian traffic at this busy intersection was prompted by a request of the school district and the signatures of more than 300 concerned residents.

Indian Land resident Pam Houge spearheaded the effort. She’d been watching students walk back and forth along the narrow, grassy shoulder of River Road for far too long, she said. And after witnessing a vehicle nearly hit a student, she started making phone calls.

“I am very thankful for (SCDOT’s report) because they listened to our concerns and took action,” she said.

Department employees observed the intersection on Nov. 11, 16 and 20 during high traffic periods in the morning and the afternoon.

“Pedestrians were noted on the school side of River Road walking in the grass and crossing the intersection during all but one observation,” Edwards reported. “No pedestrians were noted in the roadway.”

Considering the observed walking patterns, Edwards said a sidewalk along the north side of River Road and around the offices in the northwest corner of the school’s campus would be an improvement.

Based on his recommendations, SCDOT will install additional school speed zone flashers and upgrades in signage and pavement. McCarter said the work will be completed as schedules and weather allows, hopefully within 30 days. Meanwhile, the department will await a response from the school district regarding the proposed options, he said.

Houge said SCDOT doesn't have the funds to make the sidewalk project happen, but it’s going to do what it can with the funds it has. She’s asked the school district and the county how the community can come together to fund the project.

“This project is a need, not a want,” she said.

“The sidewalks will protect our children. Like I have said before, I don't want a child to get hit by a car before we as a community step up and do something. We should always do what we can to protect our children who are our future.”

Stephanie Jadrnicek: stephaniej123@gmail.com

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