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Highway 17: DOT ready to switch on new traffic signals

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Two new traffic signals on Highway 17 in Pawleys Island could turn from yellow to red and green as early as this afternoon, according to the state Department of Transportation. A system that links those signals with five others won’t go into operation until next month.

The signals at the Pawleys Island Post Office and the intersection with Hotel Drive and Jetty Drive are the final step in a $3.75 million project that replaced the two-way left-turn lane on 1.8 miles of highway with a raised median. The signals will allow left turns onto the highway from side streets and allow traffic on the highway to make U-turns. They are also intended to break up the flow of traffic for U-turns at gaps in the median between the signals.

The lights began flashing yellow on the highway and red on the side streets Monday afternoon. DOT rules require three to seven days of flashing lights before the signals become fully operational, said Michael Bethea, DOT’s district traffic engineer. “We try not to turn them on on a weekend,” he added.

The department won’t turn new lights on when it’s raining, so the weather will also be a factor.

“They need the two lights,” said Bern Sweeney, a board member of the Waccamaw Council of Property Owners Associations. The group has raised concerns with DOT about speeding on Highway 17 and been wary about the median project without taking a position.

Now that it’s complete, members said it seems to be working to keep traffic moving through the area. “I can tell a difference, and it’s an improvement,” said Henry Jobe, a POA council board member.

Jobe and Tom Stickler, the council president, noted that there will continue to be problems with drivers going the wrong way in the turn lanes. Jobe said he recently saw a large pickup truck drive over the median.

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