An update from SCDOT

We reached out to Brandon E. Wilson, SCDOT District 3 Traffic Engineer for an update on the long awaited traffic signal at the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail interesction with West Blue Ridge Drive (SC-253) who provided this information on December 13, 2022:

New Technology

The goal of the radar technology being deployed at the intersection will be two fold over the existing push buttons present at the Sulphur Springs intersection. 

1. The radar unit being used for detection on the trail will be able to distinguish between cyclist and pedestrians through the rate of movement.  We can set the level for detection based on the speed approaching the crossing.  This will allow us to recognize an approaching cyclist and start the process to provide a green light to the cyclist as they arrive at the crossing.  Walkers or Joggers will still need to push the button at the crossing to start the process.  This is being done to facilitate usage by cyclist who frequently will not push the button for a walk symbol and to cycle the signal at Sulphur Springs. 


2. The radar unit being used for detection on SC 253 will be able to detect and track vehicles from a distance a bit over 300′ from the intersection.  This will allow the software running the signal to extend the “All Red” time should a vehicle being tracked show no signs of slowing to stop. While this will not help with vehicles that may run a red light after the trail has a green light, its benefit comes from the car that runs the red light within the first second or two of the light turning red and delays the trails green time.   

This is a substantial commitment the County and State is making so that the trail infrastructure is as advanced as we can provide to make clear who has the Right of Way at the intersection.  Anything Bike Walk Greenville can do to assist with providing education about the signal and the need to adhere to the signal once installed would be greatly appreciated. 

Schedule

We are currently soliciting pricing and a delivery schedule from 3 vendors per our procurement policy.  Once we have those back and a contract in place I will be able to give you a more definitively timeline.  I think the hope is still spring 2023 if the timeline on the material delivery has not exceeded our expectation. 

Media Coverage by WYFF and Post and Courier

Thanks to Pattrick Hussion WYFF News 4 for reaching out to us about the new radar technology coming to the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail at the SC-253 intersection and producing this report. This was broadcast on their newscasts on the evening of December 19 and the morning of December 20, 2022.

By Eric Connor econnor@postandcourier.com

Published Tue Dec 27, 2022 10:05 AM EST

GREENVILLE — For years, Swamp Rabbit Trail cyclists and walkers have begged for a stoplight at one of the trail’s most dangerous crossings, with the only hope seemingly years away.

However, in an abrupt turn of events, the change appears to be coming within a matter of months. The state Department of Transportation hopes to have a stoplight where the trail crosses state Highway 253 (West Blue Ridge Drive) installed by the end of this spring.

Brandon Wilson, the DOT’s traffic engineer for the Upstate district, said Dec. 23 that the department is currently soliciting pricing and a delivery schedule and can have a more-definite timeline.

“I think the hope is still spring 2023 if the timeline on the material delivery has not exceeded our expectation,” Wilson said.

Highway 253, a five-lane commuter highway with a 45 mph speed limit, has long presented a challenge to trail users traveling between the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and San Souci.

A large steel structure with flashing lights warns drivers that trail users are crossing. It doesn’t require vehicles stop, only be aware and slow down.

But drivers are often confused, with some stopping completely and others not, which creates a false sense of security for trail users. Further adding to confusion is a median where trail users sometimes pause but isn’t a safe waiting area.

For years, advocates have lobbied the trail’s owner, Greenville County, for money to install a stop light, similar to one up the trail at Sulphur Springs Road. But they faced repeated opposition from the County Council Chairman Willis Meadows, who represents the district the crossing is within.

This past summer, incoming council member Benton Blount campaigned in support of a traffic light and ousted Meadows in the Republican primary.

The county had considered a plan to create a trail crossing under Highway 253 by way of a drainage culvert, but the project “was deemed not functional” and would cost $1.2 million.

In the longer term, plans are for a developer to build a bridge over Highway 253 north of the crossing as part of a billion-dollar redevelopment of the former Union Bleachery mill. That project, which will unfold over the next decade, has just broken ground.

The stoplight crossing project was kick-started with a $99,000 private donation to the Greater Greenville Parks Foundation, said Frank Mansbach, director of advocacy group Bike Walk Greenville. The donor desired to be anonymous in his gift, Mansbach said.

The effort got a major boost, Mansbach said, with an opinion piece published in The Post and Courier in last July. The commentary, penned by physician and Bike Walk Greenville board vice president John McBurney, was forwarded to a top SCDOT safety official and was instrumental in moving the project forward more quickly than it had been, Mansbach said.

The total cost, shared by the county and state, has yet to be determined as the DOT completes the procurement process.

The stoplight isn’t a panacea for safety. Two summers ago, a woman was struck and killed by a vehicle in a hit and run where the car sped through a red light at the Sulphur Springs Road crossing. However, this new stoplight at 253 will be different. Instead of using a push-button system for cyclists like Sulphur Springs, it will use radar technology to activate the signal, Wilson said.

The technology will be able to distinguish a cyclist from a pedestrian based on oncoming speed. Cyclists are less inclined to use a push button system. The radar will detect a cyclist and automatically begin the process of giving a green light. Pedestrians would still push crossing buttons.

Meanwhile, the radar will measure vehicle traffic from as far as 300 feet and determine whether a vehicle shows any signs of slowing to stop. The detection will allow the system to extend the “all red” time, which delays when to allow traffic to begin moving in any direction.

It won’t help with motorists who outright run the red light when the pedestrian light is green, Wilson said, but will help provide a delay involving those who run the red light in the first second or two.

“We at Bike Walk Greenville are pleased that our many years of advocacy for a traffic signal at the Highway 253 intersection with the Swamp Rabbit Trail will become reality in 2023,” Mansbach said. “This intersection has long been regarded as extremely dangerous by trail users, and the new radar technology promised by SCDOT will be a great safety improvement.”

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