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Traffic: Inlet group gets permits for Marsh Walk crosswalks

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A Murrells Inlet community group has received state permits to install four crosswalks on Business 17 to connect pedestrians with the Marsh Walk. It hopes to have them installed by Memorial Day.

“We didn’t take no for an answer,” Whitney Hills, who chairs Murrells Inlet 2020, told residents at a Chowder Talk last week. A year earlier, the group was told that crosswalks and improvements to bike lanes along Business 17 would only be possible if Georgetown County agreed to take responsibility of the federal highway from the state Department of Transportation. “I’ve been working with federal and state highway administrators on the county taking over,” Mike Wooten, the 7th District DOT commissioner, said at the time.

Wooten, who now chairs the DOT commission, couldn’t be reached for comment this week. “That’s what DOT’s impression was,” state Rep. Stephen Goldfinch said. He chairs the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study policy committee, which allocates state funds to local projects. “Often when you ask bureaucrats something, the easiest thing is for them to say no,” he added.

Wooten and U.S. 7th District Rep. Tom Rice helped put the crosswalks on track, Goldfinch said. He has asked the Georgetown County Transportation Committee for $50,000 for the crosswalks. The committee gets funds from the state gas tax for local projects.

“I’m hoping CTC will agree to fund the project,” Goldfinch said. “This is a safety issue on 17.”

Pedestrian and cyclist safety were among the top concerns voiced by inlet residents in a survey Murrells Inlet 2020 used to prepare a long-range plan last year. Gary Weinreich, an inlet resident, contacted Rice and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott after hearing that crosswalks and bike lane improvements weren’t allowed on a federal highway. He got a letter back in January from Scott, whose staff had contacted the Federal Highway Administration. “Georgetown County is not required to take ownership of the highway in order for safety improvements, including crosswalks, to be provided,” Scott wrote.

Weinreich sent the letter to Jeff Ciuba, who is working on the crosswalk project with fellow 2020 board member Linda Lane. Ciuba got federal, state and local officials to a meeting on an evening in June. After agreeing improvements could be made, they looked at pedestrians crossing Business 17 to see the problem first-hand.

“It’s probably the busiest part of all of Georgetown County,” Ciuba said.

He and Lane put together a plan for pavement markings and signs. DOT approved it.

Murrells Inlet 2020 also got permits to paint a 6-inch-wide reflective strip between the bike lanes on Business 17 and vehicle lanes. The group hopes that work can be done along with the crosswalks if funds are available.

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