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Highway 17 traffic: New signs unlikely for 45 mph zone

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Complaints about speeding on Highway 17 in the Pawleys Island area were addressed, at least temporarily, by a visit from a Highway Patrol motorcycle team this week. But a call for more signs drawing attention to the expanded 45 mph zone won’t get a similar response, according to a Department of Transportation official.

The Waccamaw Neck Council of Property Owners Association has worked to draw attention to speeding for several months. “There’s more of it than ever,” said Henry Jobe, a council board member from Litchfield by the Sea. “There’s more police as well,” said Bill Renault, a board member from the Tradition Club.

Since January, there has also been more of the 45 mph zone to enforced. DOT lowered the speed limit on a mile of Highway 17 south of Pawleys Plantation from 60 mph. The POA council wants DOT to expand its signage at the south end of the 45 mph zone to include a flashing warning. For $2,500, the sign could also include a radar unit to tell drivers how fast they are going, said Tom Stickler, the POA council president.

The council considered offering to finance the sign, along with one at the north end of the 45 mph zone between North Litchfield and Brookgreen Gardens. Some council members think that ought to be paid for by the state or county.

“We don’t do that,” said Michael Bethea, DOT’s district traffic engineer. “We change speed limits on roads all over the state. If you do it for one, you’d have to do it for everyone.”

It won’t help if the POA council offers to pay for the sign.

“We can’t let people do things just because they have money,” Bethea said.

Stickler hopes the POA council will be able to convince DOT to put more 45 mph signs within the Pawleys Island-Litchfield area to let drivers who turn onto the highway know that’s the speed limit. He said new signs went up north of North Litchfield. “I’d say they’re making progress,” Stickler said.

Bethea believes there are enough 45 mph signs in the area. “They know the speed limit,” he said.

The expansion of the 45 mph zone hasn’t been universally applauded. “We had people who badgered us for year to put in the 45 mph zone,” Bethea said. “Now that it’s in, people don’t want it. Those who get a ticket don’t want it enforced.”

One thing he and POA council members agree on is that signs alone don’t slow down traffic.

“If you put up the signs, that’s fine, but if you don’t have any enforcement, what good does it do?” said Bob Hesterfer, a council board member from Ricefields.

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