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Highway 17: Petition drive asks DOT to scrap median project

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A new sign went up this week at Coastal Urgent Care, which has opened at Pawleys Business Center.

“It’s like an emergency room for some of our patients. We’re the first line of defense,” Dr. Gerald Congdon said.

So he’s concerned that plans for the Highway 17 median in front of his office will prevent left turns into the center.

“I think it would be terrible,” he said.

He’s one of 708 people who as of Tuesday had signed a petition asking the state Department of Transportation scrap its plan to replace the paved median with a raised and landscaped median between Martin Luther King Road and Waverly Road.

The project was the subject of public meetings this spring where three options were presented, and DOT received comments from 80 people before selecting the plan it proposes to start building in 2014.

The petition drive began David Gundling, Steve Goggans and Mike Redmond, who all have offices at Pawleys Business Center, started looking over the DOT proposal.

“There’s a lot of restricted access, a lot of U-turns,” Gundling said. “I can’t imagine how dangerous that would be.”

They started talking with other business owners. Jan Devereaux, a partner in the Island Shops and owner of Waverly Place, went to the meetings held by DOT and Stantec, the engineering firm working on the project. She said she didn’t realize that none of her tenants received notice of the meeting.

Many were unaware of the plan. “You’ve got a lot of people who are struggling,” she said, and restricting access will make it tough on small businesses.

The $2.5 million project calls for two traffic lights: at the post office at at the Hotel Drive/Jetty View intersection near Fresh Market. Median breaks are shown at Whipporwill Lane in front of Waverly Place shopping center, Professional Lane, the Village Shops, the Hammock Shops, Berry Tree Drive in front of First Federal Bank, between Cannan Shore Road and Hinnant Lane, and at Coachman Drive, Brown Pelican Loop, the stop light at Martin Luther King Road, Pathfinder Lane, Archer Road and Baskervill Drive.

Mickey Stikas, owner of the Village Shops, also went to the meetings, and opposed the project. He said the paved median, which is often call the “suicide lane,” helps the flow of traffic in the absence of acceleration and deceleration lanes. By removing it, “you all are actually proposing shrinking the road,” he said.

He favors a lower speed limit and median features to prevent its use as a travel lane.

Leah Quattlebaum, program manager for DOT, said the agency will set up meetings with anyone with concerns about the project, which is still in the design phase. She said all property owners were notified, but that DOT didn’t have the information to notify tenants in each shopping center.

DOT is still willing to listen. “The design isn’t 100 percent final,” she said.

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