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Highway 17: Hagley traffic signal gains support

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Members of the Georgetown County Planning Commission signaled support for a traffic light at a key intersection to Hagley Estates that was redrawn with the opening of the Pawleys Market shopping center. The measure will go to County Council next month while the state Department of Transportation continues to study the situation at Highway 17 and Tyson Drive.

“Pulling out of there with the new Lowes food market is extremely dangerous,” Pam Martin, a Hagley resident, told the Planning Commission last week.

Residents who were used to pulling into the paved center median to head north on Highway 17 at Tyson found this month that the median was marked as a turning lane for southbound traffic to the shopping center. “Hagley residents are making a left turn with no more middle lane,” Martin said. “This is really a death-defying situation.”

Pawleys Market is a “planned development” that was approved by the county, but the road work was done at the request of DOT, said Steve Strickland, the engineer for the project.

After receiving calls from residents and local officials about the Tyson Drive intersection, DOT put up a portable message board sign urging caution. Someone added a handmade sign that read “Danger.”

“I didn’t know that lane was gone either,” commission chairman Brian Henry said. He found out when he trailered a boat to Hagley landing. Getting onto the highway with a vehicle that’s pulling a boat, “if you don’t realize that lane’s not there you could be in a world of trouble,” he said.

“Frankly, this is not a surprise,” Boyd Johnson, the county planning director, said. The Pawleys Market developers offered to install a traffic light. “DOT said absolutely not,” Johnson told the commission. Tyson Drive is too close to the traffic signal on Highway 17 at the South Causeway to warrant its own light.

Johnson suggested the commission recommend County Council adopt a resolution asking DOT for a traffic signal. “I would definitely like to do that,” Henry said.

Other members agreed and although no formal vote was taken Johnson said he will present the idea to County Council in July.

“I don’t like traffic lights being that close together, but sometimes that’s all you can do,” Johnson said.

Michael Bethea, DOT’s district traffic engineer, said the agency hasn’t ruled out a signal at Tyson, but it’s looking at the section of highway between the South Causeway and Plantation Drive.

“We don’t want to make a knee-jerk reaction to it,” he said. “We’re still looking at it, we’re still gathering data.”

He has received over two dozen calls about the intersection. He initially thought he could come up with a solution in a week. “I realized it was a bigger project,” he said.

The planning staff have suggested that concerned residents look for another access if they’re headed north on Highway 17.

“Friends are saying they don’t take that road anymore,” Martin said. “That shouldn’t be.”

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