Alternative to back gate and bypass on hold - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Alternative to back gate and bypass on hold

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Myrtle Beach, SC -

By Brandon Herring - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As construction of a new overpass draws near at the intersection of US Highway 17 Bypass and SC Highway 707 in Myrtle Beach, another project that could help alleviate some congestion in the area is on hold.

The overpass project at the former Air Force base back gate is on schedule right now with tree clearing finished and work to move utility lines in progress. Bidding for the construction will last into the spring, and major construction is expected by summer.

The project is supposed to help eliminate traffic congestion in the area, but during construction some traffic backups are expected.

So leaders in the city of Myrtle Beach have considered extending an existing road to help some drivers avoid the back gate area.

The road that would be extended is the frontage road that runs along the southeast side of the bypass. Part of it is Old Socastee Highway, and it would connect to Harrelson Boulevard at Mall Drive - between the airport and Coastal Grand Mall. On the other end the frontage road would connect to Farrow Parkway just across from the southern entrance to the Alexan at Withers Preserve apartments.

People eating lunch at the Airport Diner on the frontage road Tuesday seemed to overwhelmingly support the idea.

"Traffic still has to flow here while they're doing construction, and if they don't do something to help us get people in and out of here we'll be completely blocked off [because of traffic backups]," said Lynne Frazier.

Because of those concerns, she would like to see the road extended before the back gate overpass construction begins. However, she realizes the road could be useful in the long-term too to bypass a busy section of the highway.

"The neighborhoods at the back gate alone would be able to get in and out of here without even touching the bypass," Frazier said.

Assistant City Manager Ron Andrews said Myrtle Beach leaders now have little hope of getting the project done before back gate construction begins.

The city has not been able to acquire the land needed off of Farrow Parkway because that land is now in foreclosure. The area was owned by the developers of Withers Preserve, but it is now in the receivership of another company.

Andrews said the city was working with the original owner, but that owner did not move quickly with the city's inquiries. A major obstacle to the effort is the need for a new wetlands evaluation on the land. Now there is not much interest in getting that evaluation because development plans are on hold.

Andrews said the best possibility to extend the frontage road would come if a new developer decided to move forward with development plans in the area off Farrow Parkway. He does not anticipate that any time soon. However, he said if a developer does begin work in the area, the city can proceed with the frontage road extension project even while the back gate overpass construction is underway; the two project would not interfere with each other he said.

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