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Highway 17: Median project opponents miss turn

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Opponents of a plan to eliminate the paved median on Highway 17 in the Pawleys Island area missed the chance this week to take their concerns to the group that oversees the region’s highway project.

The Grand Strand Area Transportation Study’s policy committee approved an additional $1 million for the project this week. The money comes from a federal grant and will be used to resurface the highway in the project area, which runs from Baskervill Drive to the North Causeway.

A group of area business owners began circulating petitions this summer opposing the project, months after the state Department of Transportation held a series of meetings to get comments. The plan calls for building a raised median with designated turning areas to replace the open turning lane. Traffic lights will be installed at the post office and the intersection of Highway 17 with Hotel and Jetty drives.

Opponents say the project will reduce safety and harm businesses because some customers will have to make U-turns instead of left turns across traffic.

“I thought they would be here,” said Mark Hoeweler, planning director for Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments, which provides staff for the committee. He was among the officials who met with opponents last month.

The policy committee represents local governments in Georgetown and Horry counties and helps direct DOT spending on highway projects. The median is 16th on the list of 38 projects planned between now and 2018. It is now a $3.75 million project and is scheduled for construction in 2014.

Some of the specific concerns with the project can be addressed, Hoeweler said, but it’s too late to drop the project.

Opponents, who are represented by David Gundling, an attorney whose office is in the project area, have asked DOT for traffic data that was used by the consultants to come up with the plan for turn lanes and other information. Gundling said he wasn’t able to attend the committee meeting, but had arranged with someone to go on behalf of the opponents.

“It was a missed opportunity,” he said.

He said he is still waiting for the data from DOT, for which he submitted a request under the state Freedom of Information Act earlier this month.

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