Grant will fund Kings Highway 'walkability' study

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The city of Myrtle Beach wants more tourists to walk to Kings Highway to support businesses and have a better experience in town without having to get in the car.

To help bring this to fruition, a portion of the highway will be studied to help city officials figure out what improvements can help.

What's keeping people from walking from their hotels on Ocean Boulevard to the businesses on Kings Highway?

It's something city officials and tourists agree on; the layout of Kings Highway, in many places, is not exactly conducive to a safe, relaxing family stroll.

"I definitely would like to be able to walk, at least on this strip," said tourist Samantha Gauvin as she stood off 13th Avenue South.

It's not that tourists like Gauvin don't want to walk around Kings Highway.

"There's a ton of traffic," she explained. "There's not very many sidewalks. I've actually driven everywhere since I've been here. So definitely not on this strip, I wouldn't feel safe."

Kelly Mezzapelle, a city planner for Myrtle Beach, said getting people across Kings Highway has always been a challenge because of the traffic.

The walkability study will be conducted thanks to a grant from the National Association of Realtors.

"Walkability and bikeability is becoming one of the things that people are most often asking about," Mezzapelle said on why the NAR is studying the topic. "So, they are looking around the country to do studies to see which areas are more walkable, and how areas can become more walkable so it can be a better market for people who are coming to them looking for houses."

Myrtle Beach is the first city to receive the grant.

"We need to analyze where we have connectivity issues, where the sidewalks need to be wider, if we have them already," Mezzapelle said. "A lot of people come to town and want to shop, but it's difficult to get to the shops along Kings Highway."

This is a difficulty Gauvin pointed out too. She would have enjoyed walking and exploring the downtown area a bit more.

"I went to the Tanger Outlets," Gauvin said. "That was definitely more like attractive for us, versus driving around on the strip because it's so tight and there's not really anywhere to park."

The $15,000 grant will fund a team of consultants to study the span of Kings Highway between Third and 13th avenues south, alongside city employees and volunteers.

"We're going to be analyzing crash data, we're going to be analyzing crash counts," Mezzapelle said. "And we're going to be going out and experiencing the area as a pedestrian, and looking at general ideas where we need sidewalks, what kind of sidewalks, where we need handicap ramps, things like that."

The city owns the roads and sidewalks, which means officials have the power to allocate funds to fix the problems.
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"We can go back to city council with a detailed, 'This is our current situation and this is where we recommend we invest in making the area more walkable'," Mezzapelle said.

The city wanted to make sure the study takes into account traffic during the busiest time of year, so the team of volunteers, city employees and contractors will study the highway on June 29 and June 30.

To get involved, contact Myrtle Beach City Hall at (843) 918-1000 and ask for Kelly Mezzapelle.

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