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Highway 17: Median project attracts $1 million federal grant

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

While a group of area residents and business owners try to halt a project to remove the paved median along a portion of Highway 17 in the Pawleys Island area, the effort has received a $1 million federal grant.

The state Department of Transportation is designing a raised and landscaped median to replace the paved median from Baskervill Drive north of Martin Luther King Road to the Waverly Road intersection. The project was the subject of public meetings held this spring.

Opposition surfaced this month in the form of petitions calling on DOT to shelve the project. Organizers of the petition drive said after looking at the plan selected by the agency they believe it will harm businesses along the highway by restricting traffic.

The $2.5 million project includes new traffic lights at the Pawleys Island Post Office and the Hotel Drive/Jetty Drive intersection and 10 other median cuts.

Leah Quattlebaum, the program manager for DOT, said the agency was willing to meet next month with people who have specific concerns about the median cuts. But David Gundling, who has a law office in the Pawleys Business Center, said opponents wanted a larger forum.

“The tricky part at this point is that if somebody needs to argue that their property needs a median break, some adjustment will have to be made,” said Mark Hoeweler, planning director at Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments “If you make one person happy, you’re going to make somebody else unhappy.”

Gundling said the opponents want the project stopped. DOT told him that issue needed to be raised with county government. He said he would contact Wesley Bryant, the Georgetown County attorney, to find out what steps the opponents could take to halt the median work. The $2.5 million project is scheduled to start in 2014.

The additional funds come from a federal Transportation, Community and System Preservation grant. It was the only one awarded in the state. “It’s a very difficult source,” Hoeweler said.

The money will allow DOT to resurface Highway 17 in the project area, Quattlebaum said.

The median project has its origins in a 2003 study of the Highway 17 corridor on Waccamaw Neck for the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study. The study’s policy committee is made up of representatives of local government in Horry and Georgetown counties who help direct the spending of state highway funds in the region.

Vida Miller, a former state representative, chaired the committee. Now she finds her art gallery at Downtown Pawleys in the project area.

“Some things I like, some things I have concerns over,” she said.

Miller understands the need to keep highway traffic moving, but said she believes something can be done to improve access.

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