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Backgate overpass construction starts Monday

Published: Jun. 1, 2011 at 12:20 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 6, 2011 at 12:37 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF)  - Construction is set to begin on June 6 for the Backgate Overpass Project.  The $95 to $105 million project at US 17 Bypass and SC 707 will continue for three years, and project leaders are already warning for drivers to be prepared.

Between 50,000 and 70,000 motorists drive through the area each day right now, so add changing traffic patterns, reduced speed limit, and workers at the site and the frustration levels can quickly rise.  Officials are encouraging local drivers to use alternate routes including 501, Business 17, 544 and Carolina Bays Parkway.

Horry County Spokeswoman, Lisa Bourcier believes locals will adjust quickly to the changing traffic patterns, saying, "We've got a lot of alternate routes in place and I think people will use those."

View a map of the project that begins June 6, 2011 and is expected to be complete in August of 2014. Ridingonapenny.com also features a video of the project and the timeline of the construction.

In addition to the traffic, many are concerned over the economic impact of the three year project. Businesses in Market Common have varying predictions about the construction impact of the Backgate area.

Business owner Carolyn Taft says, "New clients...we'll direct them into the area telling them they have to go to Farrow Parkway and make a left into [Market Common]. Sometimes that left lane is backed up so far they say 'well, we'll find a salon closer to home'."

Others think their customers are loyal enough that their business will not be affected. Some business owners say the traffic is not nearly as bad as other cities and is not a concern.

People who live close to this intersection say they often trade in the car keys for a pair of good shoes.  They say walking saves them thirty minutes of driving even though they are just going next door. One mom said that a four mile trip to the drug store at 4:00 in the afternoon turned into an hour and half ride. Some residents are actually moving away from the area because of the traffic.

Myrtle Beach resident Ronald Hakian says, "At rush hour I don't even go out. I don't even go near that intersection. I'd rather go all the way down business 17, go all the way around 10, 11 miles than go through that intersection. Once this construction starts it's going to be a mess. It's going to be real bad; I mean it will be good when it's finished and we really have to do it."

A meeting with the SC DOT, Horry County, as well as other organizations involved with the project will be addressing the commuting issues. One suggestion will be to stay away from this intersection as much as possible.

Right now, the city is working to build two roads which would offer an alternate route during construction. Those roads are not expected to be done until November. One of the alternate route projects is the extension of Harrelson Boulevard.

The other is a frontage road which will go from Farrow all the way down to Shetland giving other ways to get to the Market Common area. Engineers say the three-year project will help relieve traffic flow.

Copyright 2011 WMBF News. All rights reserved.