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Highway 17: County takes fresh look a corridor study

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County Council Member Steve Goggans told a newly formed three-member transportation committee this week that he was elected by a wave of opposition to the Highway 17 median plan that is currently under construction.

“I would argue that most of these citizens are not opposed to highway improvements in general,” Goggans said, “but instead, believed there is a better design more consistent with the values of the community possible.”

Council Members Ron Charlton and John Thomas elected Goggans chairman of the committee before he expressed his vision: to quickly develop goals and objectives that lead to a scope of work for improvements to the Highway 17 corridor on the Waccamaw Neck. He would like to see a qualified planning and engineering firm hired by fall to begin working on a plan that would include sidewalks and all-purpose paths, landscape directives and land use initiatives.

Goggans said the last Highway 17 plan, done in 2003, has become dated and many of its key ideas were overlooked or ignored. He said state Sen. Ray Cleary is working on some state funding for the new study, and he has approached the Bunnelle Foundation about a grant.

Thomas said he had spent a weekend reading the 2003 plan and it addressed many of the things Goggans wants studied: pedestrian and bicycle lanes as well as landscape standards. “The problem,” Thomas said, “was that many of the recommendations were not implemented. Most notably, having a parallel road to Highway 17, like extending Library Lane, did not happen.”

Thomas said the 2003 study could be updated and serve as well as a new one. “I would be interested in the additional things you want addressed,” he said to Goggans. “We are talking about updating the previous study and maybe increasing the scope a little bit, but I don’t see a major increase in the scope of the study.”

Thomas said he would like a study to look at the impact of a bypass that sends traffic to Highway 701 via the Southern Evacuation Life Line.

Regardless of the plan, funding for Highway 17 improvements would be at least six years away, said Mark Hoeweler, senior staff member for the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study. “You are looking at 2021,” he said, “unless we get a new highway bill that is incredibly generous.”

Thomas said he was skeptical of additional money for Highway 17 improvements but added that the county would never get any funding unless its application is coordinated through GSATS. “An unfunded study,” he said, “is an hallucination.”

Goggans said there are several improvements that can be made in the 2003 plan.

“I think we can provide more guidance in terms of the treatment of Highway 17 that might be more appealing,” he said. “What I really also believe to be the case is within 24 to 36 months there will be very significant state funding available.”

View 2003 study: Click here

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