MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – At a special meeting Tuesday morning, Myrtle Beach city leaders decided to delay the decision to change parts of Ocean Boulevard from four lanes of vehicle traffic to three after opposition from several business owners.
The city of Myrtle Beach is considering a traffic change that would make the four-lane portions of Ocean Boulevard like the rest of the road, reducing it two one lanes in each direction, with a middle turn lane and a bike lane buffer between pedestrians on the sidewalk and cars on the street.
Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall said making these changes to the road could make it safer for residents and tourists.
At a special city council meeting Tuesday, several business owners came up to speak out against the proposed traffic change.
Michelle Kerscher, a manager at the Gay Dolphin, argued that crime also happens in areas where the traffic pattern is already down to three lanes. She said that traffic volume and freight need to be taken into consideration. She added that if the city does go forward, the businesses would like to be part of some kind of feasibility study this summer.
Councilmember Mary Jeffcoat's proposal to treat all weekends like Memorial Day by leaving barricades up on Ocean Boulevard drew ire from the business owners in the audience at the meeting Tuesday. She proposed leaving barricades up through the Carolina Country Music Fest, then running the feasibility study wanted by the Oceanfront Merchants Association.
Jeffcoat said that the traffic control changes were what the police department requested to curb crime, and asked how the council could say no to a public safety request by police.
Councilmember Wayne Gray noted that while they have discussed traffic control options like these in the past, this is the first time they've had a dialogue with the large number of merchants in attendance.
Several council members brought up the need for more police presence and aggressive enforcement of laws along the boardwalk.
"That presence has to be there in order to maintain law and order the way we think it should be," Mayor John Rhodes said. "Until that's done, we're not looking at making changes on the lanes."
Ultimately, the city council decided not to move forward with the traffic changes in the downtown area of Myrtle Beach.
The city is going to look at doing a traffic study this summer.
Buz Plyler, owner of the Gay Dolphin, said he was relieved about the decision.
"They can get on the internet and see what a miserable failure it has been in so many places," he said. "You're going to see less visitation to the area," Plyler said.
Plyler added he doesn't know how the businesses would be able to get deliveries.
"We have seen as many as 16 delivery trucks on the road in the morning," he said.
What Plyler wants to see is more police officers in the area.
"It isn't going to be solved by road work. It isn't going to be solved by working outside of the police. They have the experience level to deal with it," he said.