College-Buncombe Street Cultural Corridor
The Cultural Corridor is the section of College/Buncombe Street between Main Street and Heritage Green. Owned by SCDOT, this four-lane urban collector street carries an estimated average daily traffic of 13,400 vehicles per day.
College Street is one of four significant growth areas that are changing the way Greenville’s downtown is functioning, but currently, it behaves like a highway, without adequate accommodations for pedestrian safety, urban uses and high-quality place-making to create a successful environment for an expanding downtown. Both the Downtown Master Plan and the Downtown Traffic Master Plan recommend improving pedestrian access and connectivity from the Heritage Green campus, with its unique collections of museums, theater and library, to the downtown core by adapting the out-of-date “through-street” design of College/Buncombe Street into an urban street that can accommodate vehicular traffic while providing multi-modal connectivity, safety and access.
As a result, the City has hired the engineering firm HDR to design a road improvement project for the Cultural Corridor, which will include street resurfacing, landscaping, multi-use paths, traffic signal upgrades and street/pedestrian lighting. The goals of the project include:
- Revitalize economic growth along the corridor
- Encourage drivers to utilize Academy Street as a “downtown bypass”
- Provide/enhance pedestrian and bicycle mobility between Main Street and Heritage Green
- Implement recommendations from the Downtown Master Plan and Downtown Traffic Master Plan
On June 6, the City and HDR held a stakeholder meeting to hear comments and answer questions about the project. Here are some of the common questions received during that session.
Q: What impact will the work have on pedestrians, especially families trying to access Heritage Green?
A: Safety for pedestrians is the number one concern. Possible improvements include shortening the distance pedestrians must travel between curbs, timing the signals to ensure pedestrians can cross safely without having conflicts with turning traffic and a shared-use path that will be available to pedestrians and recreational bicyclists.
Q: How will traffic be slowed on College Street?
A: Reducing the number of lanes from four to three and narrowing those lanes will help slow vehicle traffic. Trees along the street will increase safety and slow speeds.
Q: Will the corridor have a common look or aesthetic?
A: Potential public art projects and commonly themed directional signage are in discussion. The City is also considering a specific crosswalk design for the corridor to lead pedestrians along the safest path to get from Main Street to Heritage Green.
The project would support creating Academy Street as a downtown bypass route, and College Street as the northeast entrance to the city.
At its base, the project is a "road diet," reducing vehicle travel lanes, removing on-street parking and adding pedestrian paths and planting strips.
A view of the planned changes from Whitner Street
- What are you doing to ensure that pedestrians can safely cross Academy Street?
The project team considered several options for pedestrian safety at this intersection and believes that the two alternatives outlined in the public survey strike a balance between pedestrian safety and traffic flow. Of the two, Alternative 1 is the more pedestrian-friendly option, as vehicles on College Street would be prohibited from turning left onto Academy Street during the pedestrian signal sequence.
- What will be the impact on the Landmark building property? With the loss of a lane of traffic in that block, how do you plan to deal with the displaced traffic?
There will be a shared-use path and new landscaping along the Landmark Building frontage on College Street. Driveway access to the parking garage will remain as it currently exists.
The traffic analysis conducted for College Street revealed that four lanes are not required in order to maintain acceptable traffic operations. By making improvements to several intersections along Academy Street, we anticipate being able to divert 3,000-4,000 vehicles a day from College to Academy and have modeled Academy to accommodate the new traffic counts and ensure that traffic can flow successfully.
- What about safety improvements for pedestrians at North Main and Academy?
There are no improvements planned for the intersection of North Main and Academy as part of this project; however, that intersection has been identified as a potential site for a future improvement project.
- Have you considered a diagonal crossing at College and Academy? What about a pedestrian bridge or tunnel?
While a bridge/tunnel was not considered due to budget and right-of-way constraints, a diagonal crossing option was studied early in the project. We determined that a diagonal crossing lowers the level of service at this intersection and increases travel time along Academy to unacceptable levels. Additionally, with new development in the area, it is expected that all four corners of the intersection will be utilized in the future, therefore reducing the need for a diagonal crossing.
- Please explain the road diet on Elford being considered.
The proposed road diet for Elford Street involves reducing the number of travel lanes from four lanes to two lanes. This would allow room to consider amenities such as on-street parking and pedestrian and bicycle enhancements.
- With the removal of the traffic signal on Elford, how will traffic entering Academy from Elford be addressed safely?
Drivers will only be able to turn right from Elford onto Academy - left turns will no longer be permitted. The City is also looking at ways to increase safety at the entrance and exit for St. George Greek Orthodox Church.
- Why isn't a protected and dedicated bike lane being considered? SRT already has problems in high-traffic pedestrian areas.
A cycle track and dedicated bike lanes were considered early in the project but to provide proper protection, a second lane of travel would have to be removed. Since that is not feasible, multi-use paths are the best method available to protect bike traffic.
- How does this plan prioritize safety over traffic speed?
Sidewalks will be larger and will be separated from vehicle traffic by a wide curb lawn with landscaping. Pedestrian crosswalks and push buttons will also be retimed and enhanced. Additionally, vehicle lane widths will be narrowed to reduce traffic speeds.
- Are you considering elevated crossing walks, striping options, other materials to help slow traffic and protect the crosswalks?
We will utilize narrowed travel lanes, shorter crosswalk distances, a raised median for pedestrian refuge, enhanced striping and potentially, a leading pedestrian interval, which gives pedestrians the opportunity to enter the crosswalk 3 to 7 seconds before vehicles are given a green light, to help slow traffic and protect pedestrians in the crosswalks.