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Highway 17 median: Construction marks limits of new landscaping

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The raised medians installed on Highway 17 in the Pawleys Island area mark the extent of landscaping for the $3.75 million project. Only one section due for planting remained to be completed this week, according to Kit Scott, the project manager for the state Department of Transportation.

The project will replace 1.8 miles of paved median with raised medians between Waverly Road and Baskervill Drive. The project is scheduled for completion in November.

“We’ve milled out every place where planters are going,” Scott said. The contractor will move on to install the raised portion of the median that will limit left turns on the section of highway. There will be 16 places where vehicles can turn left or make U-turns, two of those locations – in front of the Pawleys Island Post Office and at the Hotel Drive/Jetty Drive intersection – will get traffic lights.

The section in front of Oak Lea already has the raised median. “It was a hazardous area,” Scott said. “We noticed people making left turns” around the nearby planter.

Along with the median, DOT’s contractor, Palmetto Construction, is installing new drainage pipes under Highway 17 in a project developed by Georgetown County. That work is nearly complete, Scott said.

Since the work shifted from roadside drainage to the median itself Scott said she’s received fewer calls about the project. Some residents have wondered why DOT didn’t install the new traffic signals at the start of the project to help organize the traffic.

The traffic signals will be among the last work that’s done, Scott said. “They need loops in the asphalt. We can’t do that until we get ready to pave,” she said. The highway will be resurfaced as part of the project.

The new signals will be linked with five existing lights between Martin Luther King Road and Tyson Drive in an “adaptive-reactive” system that is intended to keep traffic moving. To put in signals with only conventional timers “would be a disaster,” Scott said. “That would back traffic up a lot.”

The work has already limited left turns in some places in the project area. It’s legal for drivers to make U-turns to double back to their destination, said Michael Bethea, DOT’s district traffic engineer. “You can make a U-turn unless it’s posted otherwise,” he said.

“It’s going to take a certain amount of getting used to,” Scott said. “This will probably be pretty normal to people from larger areas.”

The traffic signals will have green arrows indicating U-turns, she said. It’s expected most U-turns will be made at the lights.

While they can be made from the other median cuts, Scott said it might be a tight turn for trucks and people in large SUVs.

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