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Roads: Long-range plan includes work no one really wants
By Charles Swenson
A plan to widen Kings River Road to four lanes is part of a package of road projects Georgetown County will include in a long-range transportation plan for the region. Not that anyone thinks it will be built.
“From Day 1, the plan was Kings River Road would be widened to a four-lane highway,” said Boyd Johnson, the county planning director, who researched department records going back to the 1970s. “That would be a huge project.”
It would also be controversial, he noted.
The Grand Strand Area Transportation Study, an intergovernmental body that reviews projects for federal and state funding, is updating its master plan to run through 2040. A study committee of local government staff will develop the list of projects for approval by the policy committee, made up of state and local elected officials.
“We’re in the process of modeling projects,” said Mark Hoeweler, the senior staff member for the transportation study. “They can be ranked against each other.”
Each local government is supposed to review its current projects or remove any that are no longer necessary or feasible. “If you have any new ideas, we can put them in the hopper,” Hoeweler said.
The transportation study has over $100 million in projects listed for funding through 2019. “Our money is pretty well spent out through 2022,” he said.
Georgetown County is preparing the final phase of a capital improvement plan that began in 2005. Road work accounts for $3.6 million of about $38 million in potential projects that would be funded by the county through 2019. The county wants to make sure the work is in sync with the transportation study.
“It’s a wish list,” Council Member John Thomas said. He represents the county on the policy committee.
Other projects include widening Bypass 17 to six lanes ($27.5 million); widening Highway 701 in the western part of the county ($170 million); and widening Old Kings Highway from Highway 707 to Wesley Road ($1.4 million). Another project would create a local access road east of Highway 17 between Pawleys Island and Litchfield. There is no cost estimate, perhaps because the project crosses so many private tracts that right-of-way acquisition would be hard to calculate, Johnson suggested.
The projects are all contained in a transportation master plan commissioned by the county in 2009 when it adopted impact fees. “The GSATS study committee will see if any of those are worth trying to weave into the long-range plan,” Thomas said. The Old Kings Highway work may tie in with a bike path plan, he noted.
“I was a little bit surprised by the list,” Council Member Steve Goggans said.
Even County Administrator Sel Hemingway questioned one project: the improvement of Parkersville Road from Martin Luther King Road to Gilman Road, the entrance to the Stables Park tennis complex. The $1.3 million project was envisioned as an alternative to Highway 17 for local traffic. “You’re just creating a thoroughfare that would drive traffic through the tennis court parking lot,” Hemingway said.
He recommended County Council take the project off its capital improvement plan, although it will remain on the long-range plan for the regional transportation study.
But widening Kings River Road and Willbrook Boulevard ($12 million total) stood out. “That would be a nuclear option,” Thomas said. “Traffic will eventually be bad enough on 17, but I don’t know if people would support a four lane Kings River Road.”
There is sufficient right of way for widening, Goggans said. But that was based on estimates for growth that never came. “There were going to be 4,000 REUs in Willbrook,” he said, referring to residential equivalent units. “We’re much, much less. We may need a turn lane here and there, but I question whether we’ll ever need that.”
Goggans would like to see Martin Luther King Road added to the long-range transportation projects. He said the road base is crumbling, particularly where water drains underneath the road, so the state will have to do more than just repave. “That’s a great opportunity to rethink that road,” he said.
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