Changes under way to improve Beaufort Memorial crosswalk

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Changes under way to improve Beaufort Memorial crosswalk

Published Wednesday, April 11, 2012   |  561 Words  |  

Crossing Ribaut Road when traffic is heavy can be a bit like playing the old "Frogger" video game, but it's a trip many Beaufort Memorial Hospital employees make at least twice a day.

That's why hospital officials are working with city of Beaufort, Beaufort County and state officials to make the crosswalk between the main hospital campus and the employee parking lot by Allison Road safer for pedestrians.

City public works director Isiah Smalls said several weeks ago he met with hospital officials about their concerns and is working with county and state officials on signs and retiming lights.

Safety director Ray Brown said the problem appeared well before he started at the hospital five years ago.

"First day at work I came here as safety officer, and I asked, 'What's the thing everybody is most concerned about?'" he said. "'The crosswalks.' So I've been dealing with Isiah and the state and everybody since day one."

Brown said there have been no accidents, but hospital spokeswoman Courtney McDermott said there have been several close calls.

About three weeks ago, the county changed the lights so pedestrians have slightly longer -- 31 seconds -- to cross, said county traffic safety director Colin Kinton.

However, to keep traffic from backing up on Allison Road, cars will also turn to a green light six seconds after the pedestrian signal is activated. If no pedestrians are crossing, the vehicles can proceed. Previously, all cars had red lights when pedestrians crossed, he said.

In addition to retiming the street signals, the city, state and county officials are adding signs and have installed a crosswalk signal that includes a countdown, Brown said.

"So if you're getting ready to cross the street and you see its 10-9-8-7-6-5-4, you're not going to run across the street," he said.

That countdown sign had been on a state Department of Transportation to-do list, but was installed last week after a construction vehicle hit and damaged the former sign, Kinton said.

New signal buttons that pedestrians push to cross are also being installed on the Allison Road crosswalk and at several others around the county, Kinton said. They "beep" when activated, so pedestrians know the signal is working, he said.

Brown used a handheld radar gun to clock Ribaut Road traffic a few weeks ago. He said 15 of 50 cars were exceeding the 35 mph limit, and 10 of those were going more than 45 mph. Beaufort police plan to place a portable speed-indicator sign to show drivers how fast they are going, he said.

The safety issues will become more critical next year after the hospital finishes construction on a new office building and more employees are making the trip across the road for lunch in the cafeteria, Brown said.

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