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Residents look for fewer median cuts in road plan

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

While some came to look at the region’s long-range transportation plan to see what roads may be built, others were there to lobby for less paving.

“We have a ton of these 90-degree turns,” said Jim Stryker, a DeBordieu resident. He told transportation planners at a hearing this week he hopes the median cuts on Highway 17 that allow those turns will be closed.

“It’s a safety issue,” Styker said. People in the audience nodded their heads in agreement.

Eliminating the paved median on Highway 17 between the North Causeway and Martin Luther King Road is one of the projects already approved by the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study’s policy committee. It’s also included in the study’s 25-year plan, which is up for review.

A hearing on the plan drew 60 people to Waccamaw Elementary School this week. Their comments and responses to a survey will be used to refine the plan, which will be presented for another round of public review in August.

The transportation study is used to allocate state funds.

Walter McElveen told planners that plans to remove the paved median, commonly known as the “suicide lane,” should be shifted farther south. There isn’t much development near Martin Luther King Road that requires cutting across the highway, he said. The paved median should be removed south of the North Causeway, he said.

“It would have more of a safety factor,” he said.

The median cuts that don’t have turning lanes are also a hazard, Stryker said, since vehicles have to stop in the highway to make a turn. “We have a lot of rear-end accidents,” he said.

He proposed limiting left turns across traffic to major intersections, where vehicles could also make U-turns.

The majority of projects in the current plan are in Horry County.

Along with the median, some intersection improvements on Highway 17 on Waccamaw Neck are also part of the plan, said Linwood Altman, a member of the policy committee.

The 25-year plan also includes road projects that are part of Georgetown County’s capital improvement plan, which was created to allow the county to collect impact fees to help fund the work. Among those are the extension of existing roads parallel to Highway 17 that are intended to help keep local traffic off the highway.

John Bracken, a North Litchfield resident, was checking on several projects. One, the realignment of Sandy Island Road and Trace Drive, is due to start in April, according to Altman. Another, the construction of a new Waccamaw River crossing in Horry County, is still under consideration.

“We don’t need that,” Bracken said. “It’s a developers road.”

Several Sandy Island residents told planners they want to be included in the study. “We’ve got nothing,” said Charles Pyatt.

Georgetown County is looking for ways to provide a passenger ferry to the island, which is now only accessible by private boat.

“I look at ferry service as transportation,” said Rick Day, an engineer who is working on the plan.

Stephen Chmil, a Willbrook resident, asked how long it would take to get funding for projects on the long-range plan.

“It depends on a number of different things,” Day said. “Getting a project on the list is the first step.”

Altman has worked to get Highway 521 widened between Georgetown and Interstate 95 since 1978. He said $4.5 million was approved just this week to buy land and do the engineering for the second phase of a bypass around Andrews.

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