Wider medians and other road improvements designed to make crossing Assembly Street safer could be put in place as early as next year if federal funding comes through later this summer, University of South Carolina officials said Friday.
USCs Board of Trustees decided at its monthly board meeting to proceed with an agreement with the city of Columbia essentially the last step needed to pursue federal funding from the Federal Transit Administration.
If granted, those funds would allow for improvements to a four-block section of Assembly Street between Blossom and Pendleton streets that is fast becoming more heavily trafficked by both pedestrians and bus riders, officials say.
Its a busy corridor, said Derrick Huggins, USCs associate vice president for transportation.
Huggins and other members of the university involved with strategic planning have been working with the city, the Central Midlands Council of Governments, the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority and the Department of Transportation on a plan to improve the section a plan he says has been years in the making.
Were all working together on this, Huggins said.
The project is part of the universitys master plan as it expands west toward the river to improve how students, staffers and faculty members navigate the university.
Derek Gruner, USCs director of facilities and planning, said the catalyst for the project was the universitys recognition that pedestrian safety had to be addressed.
We felt like we had done so much work on the west side that we had reached a tipping point, said Gruner.
Studies show that the corner of Greene and Assembly Streets. was getting about 3,000 crossings, or people crossing over a 12-hour period of time, he said. The university expects those numbers to increase to about 9,000, possibly even 12,000, when the Moore School of Business, planned for that same corner, comes online next year.
The work, which could begin as early as January of 2013, would include such improvements as new bus shelters, wider corners, additional lighting and larger landing areas built into the medians along Assembly Street.
So now if you cant make it all the way across the street, you have a landing, or a refuge area, where you can wait, Huggins said.
In some blocks, parking spots and meters along the center median would need to be eliminated to create the landings, both Huggins and Gruner said. In addition, the left turn lanes at Assembly and Greene streets would be eliminated.
The university is hoping to secure somewhere between $2 million and $3 million in funding, Huggins said, with the university putting up 20 percent to secure federal matching dollars.
The project would take about 10 to 11 months of construction, officials said.
Our goal is to have this project completed by the time the Moore School opens ..., said Helen Zeigler, USCs associate vice president for business affairs.
As Huggins pointed out, the road improvements would be a benefit not only to students and others who frequent the area but will also enhance how buses pick up and drop off riders whether its public transit, university transit or park and ride transit from outlying areas such as Newberry or Camden.
Youll have the pedestrian component but youll also have a transit component too, he said.
Its what Huggins calls a transit nexus.
This would create a safer transit nexus because were looking at more users utilizing transit on our campus, he said. Its going to be a paradigm shift for those who use transit in Columbia.
Reach Lucas at (803) 771-8657.