Businesses along 544 weigh in on proposed median project

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – The owner of one business along S.C. 544 said he's hesitant to jump on board with plans to put a raised concrete median in the middle of the road, worrying about the effect it might have on other businesses.

Officials with the South Carolina Department of Transportation said right now, the proposed scope of work includes a raised concrete median which would also include a fence from Founders Drive to the fork in the road near the Scotchman gas station.

The goal of the proposal is to keep Coastal Carolina University students from crossing the four-lane highway unless at Founders Drive, where there's a traffic light and a pedestrian timer.

"I feel that there was many other steps that could have been taken before this," said Rusty Elvington, co-owner of Ace University Bookstore.

He said he understands the importance of student safety, but is worried about how difficult it may be to get to his store with the median in place.

"If you're coming from Conway and you want to go to one of those businesses on the left of 544, this is going to require them to go all the way to Founders Drive, make a U-turn, and come back to go to their business," said Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught.

A portion of the area where this project is planned is in Vaught's district. He said he's received a number of concerned calls from constituents, many of whom are business owners.

Elvington said the No. 1 priority is student safety. However, he added the safety of others could come into play as well.

"The University Station fire department down the road, and [if] there's an emergency across the street where the student apartments are down the road, they have to go all the way down where they're going to start this thing and back around," said Elvington.

SCDOT officials said they have not yet started designing the project and they don't anticipate construction to start this year. First, all funding needs to be secured before the design stages can begin.

There will also be a public information session held once the funding is secured so residents can see what's being proposed and address any concerns they may have.

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