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Highway 17: Median plan opponents will prepare an alternative

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Opponents of a $2.5 million plan that will remove the paved median from Highway 17 in the Pawleys Island area were rebuffed by local and state officials when they presented a list of changes to the project this year.

But they have now hired a traffic planner and will start again.

The plan was the subject of a series of meetings in the winter of 2012. Business owners who said they weren’t aware of the project or didn’t think their concerns were taken into account began lobbying last fall to halt the project.

The work, due to start in 2014, will create a raised median between Waverly Road and Baskervill Drive to restrict left turns. New traffic signals are proposed at the post office and in front of Fresh Market. There will be 10 median cuts to allow left turns and U-turns.

Steve Goggans, owner of SGA Architects in Pawleys Business Center, submitted a critique on behalf of opponents to Mark Hoeweler, assistant director of Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments and a staff member for the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study Policy Committee. He raised objections to the location of the new signals and said the plan will restrict access to side streets that give local traffic an alternative to Highway 17. He also questioned the safety of the U-turn concept.

Hoeweler said state Department of Transportation staff and county planning staff reviewed the objections. “I don’t see where the issues raised amount to a serious flaw in the design,” he told Goggans.

“We’ve been very thorough in looking at this,” Hoeweler said this week. “We didn’t flip a coin.”

There will still be access to side streets, even if some are restricted from left turns, he said.

But Goggans said 110 area business owners oppose the plan. A group of them have hired a traffic planner from Charleston to come up with an alternative.

The current proposal “will disturb if not destroy the overall business aesthetic of Pawleys Island,” Goggans said.

Without changes, it will lead to strip commercial development, he said. That has given opponents a theme that they hope will resonate: Don’t Strip the Neck.

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