“It’s just not safe,” changes coming to Hwy 544 in Conway

hwy 544
hwy 544

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – A newly-formed committee at Coastal Carolina University aims to improve student and pedestrian safety along Highway 544 near campus.

“You’ve got students crossing anywhere and everywhere walking in and out of traffic standing in the turn lane waiting to cross and it’s just not safe,” said University President, David DeCenzo.

The committee met with officials from SCDOT as well as leaders from Horry County and the City of Conway last week to discuss preliminary options.

“Traffic has significantly increased in the few years that they’ve been recording some of that,” said DeCenzo. “They gave us a number of different options [including] pedestrian bridges.”

Some other ideas are to put in blinking lights, a median or increasing the amount of time the traffic lights are green at the crosswalk.

“Something that conveys that there are people coming across,” added DeCenzo.

In October, a CCU student was killed while crossing the busy highway from campus to the Monarch 544 apartments.

“We have constantly a flow of students going across the street,” said General Manger of the complex, Ozzy Corpus. “We have had incidents in the past, and some even fatal, so we want to avoid that at all costs.

Corpus said building a pedestrian bridge, or any additional safety upgrades, will help.

“That would be very beneficial to the community, to the city of Conway as a whole and of course to all of our student housing communities that are on this side of the area,” he added.

DeCenzo hopes to meet with SCDOT officials in the next few months to hopefully come up with a final recommendation. He wants to make sure another tragedy does not happen on the highway.

“When you get that call in the wee hours of the morning that you just lost a student, I don’t ever want to go through that,” said DeCenzo. “If we can do something to help mitigate an accident like that happening again we’re going to do it.”

Once the final plan is created, DeCenzo said there will be discussion on who will help pay for the upgrades.

“It’s important for us to protect the safety of our students,” he added. “The University will be paying something we just don’t know what ultimately the costs are and what the total cost to the University will be.”

The committee includes members of CCU’s Department of Public Safety, University Counsel, Campus Life and Student Engagement, Student Rights and Responsibilities, and the Student Government Association.

News13 has requested documents from the latest SCDOT survey and will update you when we receive them.