Road extension aims to reduce U.S. 17 bypass traffic near Myrtle Beach airport

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The South Carolina Department of Transportation is looking at a $19.3 million project that could help traffic on a busy stretch of U.S. Highway 17 Bypass near Myrtle Beach International Airport.

Fred Nash Boulevard ends on the northern border of the airport. A dirt pile and open creek separate it from the unusable remnants of Old Socastee Highway, which goes around MYR’s property.

The stretch of U.S. 17 bypass next to Fred Nash can slow down in the afternoon in both directions. That can be especially true in summer months.

SCDOT hopes widening and extending Fred Nash will help drivers who aren’t going too far.

“It’ll just help with connectivity and it’ll add some capacity, so people won’t have to go on 17 if they’re just trying to get on Harrelson (Boulevard),” said Marla Watson, an assistant project manager with SCDOT. “They can just take Fred Nash, go on down to Seaboard (Street) or further on down.”

As part of Horry County’s RIDE III program, a center lane will be added to Fred Nash, starting at the intersection with Emory Road. The Old Socastee Highway will be paved over, connecting Fred Nash and Harrelson boulevards. SCDOT held a public informational meeting about the project at Socastee Elementary School on Tuesday.

That connection will create a four-way intersection near the Coastal Grand Mall. SCDOT will pick one of two designs this summer. It’s choosing between a dedicated left-hand turn or what’s called a “hamburger” intersection. The “hamburger” is a roundabout and two straight lanes through the middle.

It would be the first of its kind in South Carolina.

An illustration of the proposed “hamburger” intersection.

“When you come off of (the new) Fred Nash, you have the option to go right,” Watson said. “You can loop around and go to Mall Drive, or the people who are already on Harrelson, they can go straight through.”

Neighbors say they hope the project will improve traffic around the Palmetto Academy of Learning and Success Charter School. They also hope it will help with hundreds of homes being built nearby in the Meridian development.

The project also proposes removing the access to U.S. 17 bypass at Fred Nash’s intersection with Shetland Lane.

Robin Marden, who owns Joe’s Diner by the Airport says she’s worried that would hurt business.

“Oh, I shudder to think,” she said. “People just don’t want to go past things to turn around and come back.”

SCDOT says the design is preliminary, so that access to 17 bypass at Shetland could still stay. Construction is expected to begin in summer of 2021 and end two summers later.

The project also includes facilities for biking and walking.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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