New improvements underway on Ocean Boulevard

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The city of Myrtle Beach is expanding some road improvements to another section of Ocean Boulevard. The improvements are intended to improve traffic flow and safety for people walking and on bicycles.

Between 13th Avenue North and 32nd Avenue North, the city is reducing Ocean Boulevard from four lanes to three lanes. Instead of two lanes of traffic in each direction there will only be one lane for each direction with a turn lane in the middle.

The change will allow for a bicycle lane on each side of the street. In some places there will also be new crosswalks with landscaped traffic islands in the middle of the turn lane.

The work is similar to changes the city has already made on the north end of Ocean Boulevard and south of Family Kingdom.

Dayton Rausch who was visiting with his baseball team from Kentucky on Tuesday said he likes the plan for improvements.

"There's definitely a lot of traffic going on," Rausch said. "There are a lot of cars passing, and there are a lot of pedestrians. So sometimes it's hard to get across the street with all the cars. You really have to pick out a spot to know when to walk."

Rausch and his teammates said the traffic islands should make it obvious where the crosswalks are. Having a mid-road refuge between those islands will make their trips across the street a little less intimidating too they said. They have already made use of the center turn lane that is now painted on the road, although the islands are not yet install where they commonly cross the street in front of their hotel.

"We knew there might not be an opening [in the traffic] for a while," Rausch explained. "So we figured we had to cross just to get to the middle so we'd have a chance to get to the other side of the street. That was pretty much our strategy - just go half way and then just go from there."

Harold Barrett manages resorts, and he said it is common for visitors to have to cross the street to get to parking or restaurants. At the Dunes Village where the city previously installed a crosswalk and made the other changes he has already seen advantages he said.

"[Drivers] respect it," Barrett said. "I watch it every day. They slow down and stop, let people cross, and they're back on the road."

Barrett said traffic seems to flow better in the area too.

Two of the other resorts Barrett manages, Atlantica and Palmetto Shores, will now have new crosswalks installed out front. His company contributed $3,000 to the city for each of those crosswalks. Six other crosswalks are also part of the project, and each one is being installed in front of a business that also subsidized the construction with a $3,000 contribution.

Painting new lines to change the traffic lanes in the 17 blocks is costing the city $93,500. City spokesperson Mark Kruea said that money was available thanks to savings in other projects and some unspent sidewalk construction money.

The city is also working to move utility lines underground along Ocean Boulevard between 6th Avenue South and 2nd Avenue North. That project also includes some wide cement and brick crosswalks.

Both road improvement projects are scheduled for completion before Easter.

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