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Highway 17: DOT agrees to traffic signal at Hagley intersection

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for motorists at the Tyson Drive-Highway 17 intersection. A traffic light.

After weeks of accidents involving drivers attempting to cross two lanes of oncoming traffic and a new turn lane for a shopping center featuring Lowes Foods, engineers at the state Department of Transportation changed their minds about installing a signal at the intersection. Mike Bethea, DOT’s district traffic engineer, said the accidents and traffic volume trump worries about the new signal being too close to the one at the South Causeway intersection.

“The reason this light was not approved originally,” Bethea said, “was that the store had an existing light they could use at the South Causeway. We didn’t think it would be needed, but people wouldn’t go down there. People traveling 17 because of the trees and things didn’t see Lowe’s until they were by the intersection. Tourists want to see it before they turn.”

Bethea said DOT studied putting a traffic signal at Hagley Drive or Kings River Road before approving the Tyson intersection. “We like for signals to be 1,300 feet apart,” he said, “but sometimes you have to go with what’s there and that’s the best solution.”

Justin Crawford of Hagley Drive, who was involved in an accident at the intersection last month, was happy about the decision. “Awesome,” he said. “I’m glad we finally got something going. It took three different accidents to take some action.”

Crawford said he had stopped in the center lane while attempting to cross Highway 17 from the shopping center and enter Tyson Drive when his 2003 Nissan was struck by a 2003 Oldsmobile driven by Courtney Fulton of Georgetown. “I made it past the first two lanes and said, ‘Wait, there’s supposed to be a median here.’ I’m sitting there in the highway and realized this doesn’t look right,” Crawford said.

The accident report said Fulton swerved into oncoming southbound traffic to avoid a collision with Crawford but struck his vehicle and a 2012 Toyota driven by Samuel Moore of Reidsville, N.C. She was charged with driving too fast for conditions. Crawford said the state erected a sign on Tyson Drive that the median storage lane had been removed. “Who the heck knows what that even means?” he asked.

Crawford said there were no injuries in his accident, though four people were injured in a crash last week. “If anything,” he said, “it was more mental or emotional damage done. I go down to Beaumont now.”

Tom Stickler, president of the Hagley Estates Homeowners Association, said the stoplight at Tyson was the only solution DOT could have reached.

“This announcement results from widespread community concern for the safety of drivers using this intersection,” Stickler said. “Members of County Council and county staff, S.C. DOT personnel and citizens have been in discussions over the last six weeks since the change in the Tyson-U.S. 17 intersection created this dangerous situation. Integrating the new lights with the existing South Causeway signal controller is the right solution to this problem. I have proposed a similar solution to the Country Club Drive-U.S. 17-Litchfield Drive intersection.”

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The developer of Pawleys Market, home of Lowes Foods, will split the $75,000 estimated cost of the traffic signal with the state. Foundations for the signal poles will be poured once underground utilities are located.

Bethea said engineers will coordinate the new signal with the one at the South Causeway. “The new light will be in synch during peak times,” he said. “During nights we will probably run them free. We’ll look at the distance and the traffic, how far you can travel from one to the other and maybe offset them a little bit.”

He said the new light will have no effect on a proposed traffic signal at Petigru and Highway 17 for Pawleys Plaza and its new Publix grocery. “Petigru will get a light under an encroachment permit,” Bethea said. “That one’s approved.”

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