Restaurant hot-spot could get safety upgrade

Murrells Inlet, SC - MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) – It prides itself off of serving some of the freshest seafood in the Grand Strand, and now one group is looking to make the restaurant hot-spot a little safer for visitors.

Murrells Inlet 2020, a coalition of local business owners and residents, said they're pushing forward an effort to create safer crosswalks for pedestrians along the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk. Group organizers hope the initiative will help improve the safety for those who frequent the waterfront town.

"I have a dear friend that was killed just a short distance down the street," Ken Waxenfelter said, who bikes through the area.

He believes proper crosswalks are long overdue, and now the improvement could soon take shape.

"We just have to protect our people," Drunken Jack's co-owner Al Hitchcock said. "The customers coming down next year – we've got to protect them next year."

Hitchcock is among the group of business owners who are combining forces to create new plans to revamp the roadway. The plan, according to Hitchcock, will include pedestrian paths and crosswalks to reduce pedestrian accidents.

The project is being managed by Earthworks, a Murrells Inlet planning and consulting firms. Developers said while the need is present for the project, it could take anywhere from three to five years to become a reality.

"The Murrells Inlet Streetscaping Project is intended to take the chaos that is there now, and organize it," Scott Strickland, an Earthworks engineer, said. "[It will] give the visitors some direction on parking, walking and crossing."

The new project, developers hope, will prevent deadly pedestrian and car collisions like the one that killed Leigh Ann Wheeler. Last May, Wheeler was crossing the street to return to her car when she was struck by an oncoming vehicle.

The guidance some claim is badly needed on the roadway could have helped prevent Wheeler's death.

"If drivers slow down and adhere to them, sure I think it would be a good idea," Waxenfelter said.

Funding for the project, according to Earthworks, has yet to be secured.

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