Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy and Coastal Carolina University President Michael Benson agree on one thing: they don’t think a fence in the middle of S.C. 544 is a good idea.

The S.C. Department of Transportation, looking for an idea to keep students who must cross S.C. 544 safe, are calling for a concrete median with rounded curbs with a fence in the middle that they hope will force students to go to a marked crossover to get from one side to the other of the busy road.

The group set a community meeting to discuss the idea, but canceled the meeting after receiving reports of a tropical storm headed in this direction.

The meeting is expected to be rescheduled.

But earlier this month, after Benson spoke at the Conway Chamber of Commerce’s Business Brunch, he agreed with residents in the area who are opposing the fence that he thinks would be bad for traffic in the area.

That project would extend from Elvington Loop near West Cox Ferry Road all the way to Carter Lane near Founders Drive next to Coastal Carolina University. 

Benson said an institution where he previously served had two overpasses paid for by the students.

He said CCU officials are looking now at options to deal with the student-crossing problem.

An overpass walkway was considered initially back in 2018, but the university and the SCDOT felt that it did not really solve their problem of having one designated safe crossing space. It would still leave the rest of S.C. 544 open for people to try to cross in other places as they do now. 

In regard to some people who think the students won’t use the overpass, Benson said his previous experience was that it took students some time to become acclimated to it, but once they were used to it, they did use it.

An overpass would have to be handicapped accessible with two elevators, one on either end.

Blain-Bellamy also prefers not to see a fence on the road that is located in the Conway city limits.

“It’s the wrong thing for this community,” she said, adding that she does think the CCU students deserve to be safe.

She said at the University of South Carolina students do use an overpass that spans Assembly Street connecting two sections of the campus.

Delan Stevens, chairman of the CCU Board of Trustees, hasn’t taken a stand on the issue at this point, saying he will wait until after the community meeting to decide his position.

At this point, he said, he doesn’t have a solution.

The S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) is accepting public comments on the project.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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