Pawleys Island, S.C. — The Citizens Coalition for Ocean Highway is continuing its quest to get Georgetown County and the state Department of Transportation to reconsider a plan to close the median along U.S. Highway 17 in Pawleys Island.
The group rallyied supporters and discussed its own plan for the highway at a fundraiser Thursday night.
One of the misconceptions the group is fighting is that the landscaping in the median will be similar to what drivers see when passing through Litchfield.
“It will be a far cry from Litchfield,” said Steve Goggans, one of the coalition’s founders.
He believes the confusion began with a “heavy sales pitch” of graphics and images of beautifully landscaped medians presented at public hearings on the project last year.
“The support that was garnered at the public hearings was based on a false premise,” Goggans said. “Everybody thought ‘what’s wrong with this looking like Litchfield?’”
In reality, the landscaping in the Litchfield median is no longer allowed by SCDOT due to safety issues.
According to officials at the Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments, landscaping in the SCDOT plan, which includes dwarf youpon holly, dwarf palm, crape myrtle, pink muhly grass, groundcover and juniper, will cover 3,800 feet of the 9,300 feet of median.
The coalition also believes the places where drivers will be expected to make U-turns are not wide enough to accommodate tractor-trailers and other large trucks, and emergency vehicles.
The two lanes on either side of the highway are 24 feet across. The SCDOT plan includes the installation of several “bulbs” or “loons,” which are paved areas that vehicles can use while making a U-turn. These areas, however, do not include acceleration lanes for vehicles after they’ve made the U-turn.
The turning radius for a car is 30 feet, so the “bulbs” can probably accommodate that. The turning radius for tractor-trailers and fire trucks is 40 feet.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Goggans said.
Mark Pender, an outside sales rep for Builders First Source, agrees.
His company’s facility on Tiller Drive dispatches three 40-foot trucks every day and receives 10 to 15 tractor-trailers every day. If the median is closed, those trucks will no longer be able to go north on Highway 17 from Tiller Drive.
Pender believes truck drivers will instead take Petigru Road, which has no sidewalks, through the Parkersville neighborhood to access Martin Luther King Road.
“When you introduce a tractor-trailer and a pedestrian, that’s not a good thing,” Pender said.
Some trailers are 53-feet long and are pulled by cabs that are 20 feet long, adding up to 73 feet of vehicle trying to make a U-turn, he added. Pender is also worried about the numerous tourists driving mobile homes or RVs with cars in tow behind them.
“The road’s not wide enough to make a U-turn,” he said.
He supports leaving the median the way it is now.
“I think the paved median is the right answer,” Pender said. “I don’t see digging it up and putting flowers in there is a good answer.”
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The Citizens Coalition for Ocean Highway’s Don’t Strip the Neck fundraiser is tonight from 5-8 p.m. at the Caledonia Fish Shed. Tickets are $25 at the door.
For more information call Mindy McVay at 843-424-6701.