MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - New information has been released Monday morning on the long awaited project to widen one of the most used highways in the Grand Strand.
Drivers using Hwy 501 to drive in to Conway from the beach lately, may have noticed survey stakes right next to the road.
Once the $2 million project gets underway, SCDOT will widen the roadway to three lanes. This will only be for the northbound stretch of roadway from Tanger Outlets to Gardner Lacy Road.
Officials say this is the most congested stretch of Hwy 501, and adding an extra lane will keep traffic moving smoothly, especially since the plans are to continue the extra lane that drops off from Highway 31 right before Tanger.
Drivers say they're sick of dealing with Hwy 501, and they're relieved to finally see some action to improve it.
"[Highway] 501 is waiting in traffic. Trying to get to your destination at all times of the day, you're always struggling to get from light to light," reports Scott Kavana who takes the road each day.
Local officials say they think it took an unfortunate accident to really push the widening project forward.
In March of this year, 4-year-old Jada Bennett was killed in an accident involving an 18 wheeler on Hwy 501. People who drive the fatal crash area regularly believe it sent a clear message that something had to be done sooner than later.
"It was a bad thing that did happen, and I was here. I remember it distinctly, and I thought it was horrible. It was really horrible," says driver Tina Gulino.
Even though construction had been in the plans before the crash, it seems it took a fatal accident to bring the project to life and set a timetable for the work. The stretch of highway that will get an additional lane, from Tanger Outlets to Gardner Lacy, is considered the most crowded part of 501 and also the most dangerous.
"It's about time. It really is about time. I don't know how long I've come down to be a snowbird but I've love to come down to see it completed," says Gulino.
The work will widen to three lanes in that area and have better turn lanes to help cars smoothly get off the roadway. Drivers say more room on the highway for the thousands of cars that travel it everyday will hopefully mean we will see fewer fatal accidents.
Drivers will see some work happening on Hwy 501 soon as the survey stakes mark all the utility work that needs to happen before the construction gets underway. The actual work on the additional lane is expected to begin this spring.
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