Councilman pushes to keep evacuation route alive

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Atlantic Hurricane season ends November 31, and the Grand Strand has avoided any major storms for another year. However, the area may not be as lucky next year. So Horry County Council member Paul Price is pushing for action on a big road project that could help people get out faster during a hurricane evacuation.

The Southern Evacuation Lifeline (SELL) would give a 28 mile alternate route from the southern end of the Grand Strand across the Waccamaw River. It would start somewhere between Surfside Beach and Georgetown at Highway 17 and link to Highway 22 at Highway 501. Officials say it would cut down on evacuation time by 5 to 9 hours.

The project has come to a standstill though because Horry and Georgetown Counties and the state are still trying to figure out a way to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars to build the evacuation route. Money has been used to identify at least three possible routes and do part of an environmental study. No More money to continue the planning and construction is not available right now.

At a recent meeting between county and Myrtle Beach leaders, Price, who has represented the South Strand of Horry County for just a year now, said SELL should remain a priority.

"It is critical - I can't say that enough - to people having the ability to safe their own life," Price said. "It's a big safety issue for us."

A meeting scheduled for Tuesday will be the first meeting in months focused on the SELL.

Price admits construction cannot happen until the money is available, but he says local and state leaders can still try to finalize the route and work out any concerns.

"Building a road doesn't happen overnight," Price said. "Steps we take today we may not be able to see for a number of years down the road, but if we don't start those steps today it will never happen."

The Burgess Community along Holmestown Road is one area that would benefit from the SELL. One proposed route would extend Holmestown Road west of Highway 707 and across the Waccamaw River.

Betty Holmes has lived off Holmestown Road for 49 years,

"A lot of changes, and we like the changes," Holmes said. "We just don't want too much."

She said she likes the idea of building the SELL, and although the plans and the money for the project are at a standstill, she is still interested in what is happening.

"Because we are part of Holmestown, and we want everything to be well for our children and our grandchildren as well," she explained.

Holmes said she wants local leaders to continue working on the project, but she and others do still worry about the exact location of the route. She said she and her neighbors don't want a highway that will bring more commercial development to their residential area.

"We don't want to be taxed out, but we want what's best for our community," Holmes said.

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