NMB moves forward with $6.5 million improvements to Ocean Blvd

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The city of North Myrtle Beach is giving the green light to a multi-million dollar improvement project to a stretch of Ocean Boulevard.

The project will break down into two parts: an underground conversion and a widening improvement. It will cost $6.5 million in total.

Half of that money, $3 million, will be put into converting the power and utility lines under the road. That money comes from a franchise agreement between the city and Santee Cooper, according to NMB spokesman Pat Dowling.

Dowling explained the biggest benefit is keeping the lines from being damaged during hurricanes and tropical storms. There will be a better chance of keeping power after a storm hits the shore.

Santee Cooper points out the downside of underground lines is it is more difficult to access the lines if they need repair.

Overall, the city hopes the transition will make roads safer. Getting rid of power lines cluttering intersections will get rid of distractions for drivers because it provides a clear sight of street signs and stop lights.

For several years, the city of North Myrtle Beach has wanted to complete the underground conversion on the stretch of Ocean Boulevard in the Crescent Beach section. However, a delay of state funding for the second part of the project delayed the underground conversion.

The second phase of the project is funded by the South Carolina Department of Transportation and involves widening Ocean Boulevard from 15th Avenue South to 28th Avenue South. Sidewalks will be replaced or added and crosswalks will be installed. This project will cost an estimated value of $3.5 million.

The city wanted to do both projects at the same time to cut down on construction time and inconveniences to drivers. As Pat Dowling points out, it makes more sense to get them both done at the same time and not have to tear up the road more than necessary.

In order to get the improvements going, the city of North Myrtle Beach has applied to SCDOT to qualify as a Local Public Agency. As an LPA, the city will have authority to implement and manage the SCDOT project locally. This will help keep it on the city's timeline.

Construction could start as early as fall 2014 and could wrap up by the winter of 2016.

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