City weighing pros and cons of moving Highway 501

City weighing pros and cons of moving Highway 501

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF)- A major change could be in the works that will drastically affect how millions of tourists get to the beach every year.  The City of Myrtle Beach is moving forward with an initial plan that would literally move a section of Highway 501.

Moving several blocks of the highway will not be easy and will take years of planning, coming in with a price tag in the neighborhood of $6 million.  However, money and time are not the biggest hurdles standing in the city's way when it comes to moving  Highway 501.

The goal is to bring more traffic and business to the downtown area that has struggled to regain life in recent years, but answering the question as to how you go about moving a highway while keeping everyone happy may be an impossible.

Right now, Highway 501 hits Broadway then turns to the north and eventually connects to Kings Highway.  The "new" Highway 501 would go down to the beach connecting at 7th Avenue North.

It is a straight shot and a move that could ease traffic congestion in the area, as Councilman Wayne Gray mentioned in Tuesday's budget workshop.

"You come down 501 now but you want to go south, 3rd Avenue will help, but you can't go south," added Gray.

The city knows going through with this plan will not be easy, financially or politically.  At least one building, possibly more, would need to be demolished to make room for the section of the highway that cuts between Broadway and Oak Street.

The city could acquire these properties by offering incentives or money to businesses that are already there or convince them in exchange for demolition of some properties, you may have access to new parking or foot traffic in a pedestrian-friendly zone.

Whatever the offer, some business owners said it must be worth it.

"If they have an idea that's out of the park then I might embrace it totally, but I need to see it and it needs to make good business sense to me," said property owner Myra Starnes.

The city's assistant manager said it could be 3 to 5 years from now, at the earliest, when construction could begin.  That is if this plan turns into a reality.

As for funding the potential project, the city has about $1.8 million already through a combination of two road projects related to Highway 501 and about $800,000 left over from the Kings Highway Beautification Project.

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