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Highway 17: Median project will begin with drainage work

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Work on a plan to install a raised median on Highway 17 in the Pawleys Island business district has been cleared to start, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The work will begin with installation of drainage pipes under the highway, said Leah Quattlebaum, the DOT project manager. The $3.75 million project will eliminate the two-way left-turn lane on the highway between Waverly Road and Baskervill Drive. It’s due to be completed in November 2015.

“The contractor has been given the notice to proceed,” Quattlebaum said. “You should see them out there.”

Palmetto Paving of Conway was the low bidder. The company is currently wrapping up the newest phase of the Bike the Neck path, which runs along Kings River Road from Willbrook Boulevard to Waverly Road and down Waverly to Waccamaw Elementary School.

The drainage work won’t require closing lanes on the highway. Once the crews move into the median, they will work at night and there will be lane closures, Quattlebaum said.

A raised concrete median will have 17 breaks for left- and U-turns. There are funds in the contract for landscaping portions of the median, and Quattlebaum said DOT will work with the Litchfield Beautification Foundation and the Pawleys Island Highway Beautification Program to select the plants.

Some area business owners opposed the project design, saying the reduction of left turns will impact their customers. They claimed DOT misrepresented the project as a beautification effort. The Citizens Coalition for Ocean Highway tried unsuccessfully to get Georgetown County Council to ask for a delay in the project so the plan could be revised. The group raised funds for a lawsuit, but said last month that their attorney could find no grounds for a suit that was likely to prevail in court.

The median project also includes two new traffic signals: at the Pawleys Island Post Office and the Hotel Drive/Jetty Drive intersection. Those will be linked to existing signals at Waverly and Martin Luther King roads in an “adaptive-reactive” system that will adjust the timing to actual traffic conditions.

Local transportation planners asked DOT to link the signal at the South Causeway and the Lowes Foods/Tyson Drive intersections to the system. “We’re trying to work out the logistics,” Quattlebaum said, since they are outside the project area.

A traffic signal that will be installed at the Alston Road/Petigru Drive intersection as part of the redevelopment of Pawleys Island Plaza will be linked to the signals in the median project area, she said. Work has started to align Alston Road with Petigru to make a four-way intersection.

Coordinating the signals and installing the landscaping will be the last part of the median project, Quattlebaum said.

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