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Highway 17: Outside funds sought for county corridor study

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County Councilman Steve Goggans says it’s time to think big about the future of Highway 17.

He told members of the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club Monday that he has applied for a grant from the Bunnelle Foundation to match some anticipated state and county funding to update the road study from 2003. Goggans and council members John Thomas and Ron Charlton were appointed to a committee to study Highway 17 last week by council chairman Johnny Morant. “There’s never been a study of the corridor done in a holistic way to include areas in the right-of-way and also on either side,” Goggans said. “What I want to see is that the county takes leadership and pursues a study which addresses the fact we will have 40,000 cars on many portions of the road in a few years but we also begin to address pedestrian infrastructure, landscaping, signage, lighting and we even have recommendations regarding adjacent land use. This is a chance in my mind, if we do this right, for the community to get the design it wants.” Goggans said he would like to see the plans that are developed for the Highway 17 corridor adopted as an ordinance to assure they are carried out once funds become available.

Thomas told members of the Republican club he sees the job of the three-man committee as “defining the requirements, not defining the solution.” He agreed it’s time to update the 2003 study because some of its recommendations like six lanes for Highway 17 and parallel roads for local traffic have not been implemented.

Thomas and Goggans met with representatives of four groups responsible for landscaping the median of Highway 17 last week. They agreed to include landscaping into their study of a new highway plan.

Thomas said one aspect of the median plan being implemented now between Waverly Road and Baskervill Drive has gotten too little attention. Computerized traffic signals will manage traffic flow. Thomas said the “platooning” of cars will create gaps in traffic for motorists to make U-turns.

Goggans said the extension of the Carolina Bays Parkway to a widened Highway 707 in Horry County will put even more traffic on Highway 17 in the future. He favors a connector across the Waccamaw River to Highway 701 between Georgetown and Plantersville to bypass the Waccamaw Neck. He said earlier attempts at a connector were defeated by the environmental lobby, but Department of Transportation Commissioner Mike Wooten has said money is available to begin environmental permitting. “I think there are some sensitive areas the road will cross,” Goggans said, “but imagine that traffic funneling into Frasier Street at Georgetown. That’s one heck of a bottleneck. From the standpoint of emergency evacuation, there’s got to be some relief.”

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