MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A plan is taking shape that could change the look and feel of Myrtle Beach while also improving safety. The city's planning department is working to make Kings Highway more pedestrian friendly.
The road is one of the busiest in Myrtle Beach, and there are a lot of people walking along it in addition to the cars. In some areas, the sidewalks end, and that forces a lot of people to walk in the road.
"It got a little hairy because of the lack of sidewalks," commented Donald Peruta, who was walking along the edge of Kings Highway Tuesday morning.
Peruta and his family were visiting Myrtle Beach from Connecticut and decided to do some shopping at a few beachwear stores after breakfast. After using a sidewalk on one side of Kings Highway, they crossed to the other side to find there was no sidewalk.
"Your choices are really either the street, or kind of winding your way through the parking lots," Peruta said. "There were a couple of areas where you worried about the kids - kind of keeping them a little closer than you normally would."
Peruta's wife Colleen agreed that she would have felt safer if a sidewalk had been available.
Craig Charters saw the Peruta family pass by as he stood at his business Moped USA on Kings Highway. He said he sees people walking on the road every day.
"About every hour on the hour somebody's out here dodging cars," Charters said. "They're going through the bushes and through your flower beds too, basically any way they can get through here. It's a bad situation."
City planners realize there are problems, and the developing plan is a way to fix those problems. Planning Director Jack Walker said the improvements that are in the works make Kings Highway a priority.
"It is the main road," Walker said. "It is kind of the gateway into and through our communities."
The long-term goal is to put sidewalks on the entire length of Kings Highway. Planners would also like to add trees on the sides of the road and in the medians. They also want to work with businesses to move parking lots to the side or back of buildings.
That would allow for more green space or outdoor dining in front of businesses.
"The ideal is to create a way [people] can leave their car parked the whole time they're here and walk to the restaurants, walk to entertainment," Walker said.
While it will take 15 to 20 years to make all the improvements planned for Kings Highway, according to Walker, the first phase of construction work is expected to begin in the fall of 2011. Those improvements will be made between 7th Avenue North and 3rd Avenue South. Walker said a $2.5 million federal grant is making the work possible. He said the city will pursue additional grants in the future that make pedestrian improvements a priority.
"It is very clear that retrofitting our existing streets for pedestrian and bike improvement is a higher priority than it has ever been," Walker said. "I think that will influence the budgets that we lay out in the future for use of federal funds."