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Willbrook: County looks beyond roundabout to solve traffic problems

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A proposed roundabout on Willbrook Boulevard is a contentious issue, and County Administrator Sel Hemingway was the first to go negative at a public meeting this week. “Please don’t leave here without remembering the word preliminary,” he said. “A lot of folks, and I’m as guilty as anyone, concluded the roundabout was the solution.”

After getting counts from its engineering consultant on traffic generated by Waccamaw Intermediate and Waccamaw Middle schools, Hemingway isn’t sure. The counts will continue next week in the area.

The schools are served by Wildcat Way, which connects with Willbrook Boulevard at a right-in, right-out intersection. Cars that want to reach Highway 17 have to go west on Wildcat to Reunion Drive in order to go east on Willbrook to the highway. As a result, drivers looking for a shorter route cut through the intermediate school bus lane and the Waccamaw Library parking lot to reach St. Paul Place, where they block the Midway Fire and Rescue station as they wait to make a left turn onto Willbrook.

The roundabout at Willbrook and Wildcat was proposed to give school traffic better access and reduce congestion in front of the fire station.

Property owners in the area, particularly at the Tradition Club, complain about parents making illegal U-turns in their entrance and elsewhere along Willbrook Boulevard. Parents complain about long waits to get on Willbrook Boulevard at Reunion Drive.

“We want to make sure we understand the problem,” said Tilley Bull, a transportation engineer with the firm of Davis and Floyd who is working with the county. “We’re now expanding the study.”

One problem is the conflicting interests of road users. Some parents scoffed when a resident complained about people “held prisoner in their homes” by school traffic. Residents nodded in agreement when one described the bulk of the school traffic as “one mother and one child in an SUV.”

Hemingway waded into the audience at the Waccamaw Library, which overlooks the intersection, after an exchange between one resident and Tim Carnahan, principal of Waccamaw Intermediate. There are four communities in Willbrook Plantation affected by the traffic, the woman began. Carnahan interrupted. “There is one community,” he said. “It’s called Pawleys Island.”

“We’re not here to debate,” Hemingway said.

It will take four to six weeks for Davis & Floyd to collect additional information and come up with some recommendations. Hemingway and Randy Dozier, the county school superintendent, said they believe any solution will have more than one part. “We’re talking about a community issue,” Hemingway said. And just to make sure, he posed his own question to the audience before adjourning the meeting: Has any decision been reached?

The answer was a resounding chorus of “No.”

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