Local activists, leaders calling for safe pedestrian access on Northbridge

Updated: Jul. 9, 2020 at 3:14 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County leaders are looking at ways to make the Northbridge safer for pedestrians.

“This has been an issue in the community for decades and decades,” said Katie Zimmerman, director of Charleston Moves.

The Northbridge connects two heavily populated areas of the Lowcountry, West Ashley and North Charleston, but there is no safe way for a person to cross it on foot or via bike. Zimmerman said her organization has counted three deaths involving pedestrians on the bridge over the past five years.

“We know that people are going over it every day down that little median that is completely unsafe,” Zimmerman said. “So, people who are walking over it don’t have another choice, they have to get to work.”

On Thursday, Charleston County leaders will look into funding a study to determine the best way to provide safe access.

“We have to have the results of the study in order to move forward at all,” Zimmerman said. “If county council funds it, it’s a huge, huge step forward in figuring out exactly what the solution is. Then, we can all rally around that.”

But this isn't the first time, studies were completed in 2008 and 2011, but Zimmerman says those did not address enough specifics for next steps in constructing a pedestrian bridge.

"There was no detail to it so there was no follow up looking at what that bridge would look like, where it would actually touchdown on either side," Zimmerman said. "We need to fill in that level of detail so if the answer is a separate bike/ped bridge, where exactly does it go, where does it touchdown, how wide does it need to be?"

Charleston County Council estimates the study to cost $85,000 in funds already set aside for bicycle and pedestrian access.

Peter Shahid is a council member for the City of Charleston and Chairman of the West Ashley Revitalization Commission.

“We’ve been trying to work on a safe access for pedestrians and bicyclists on North Bridge for several years,” Shahid said.

Shahid says he's ready and eager to collaborate with county leaders on the project.

"This is consistent with our West Ashley revitalization commission studies and plans of connectivity," Shahid said. "It is a huge safety issue for a lot of folks that are concerned about wanting to connect from North Charleston to the City of Charleston."

According to 2019 data from the South Carolina Department of Transportation, 48,600 cars cross the Northbridge every day.

“We are constantly looking for ways we can improve safety for all modes of transportation,” said County Council Vice Chairman Moody. ”Approving these funds is a first step to determine what options are available to increase mobility over the highly traveled Northbridge – one of the main connectors between West Ashley and North Charleston.”

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