Apartments raise new concern for failing inlet intersection – Coastal Observer


Apartments raise new concern for failing inlet intersection

The apartments overlook Bypass 17, but access is through two busy intersections.

Improvements to the four-way stop at Tournament Boulevard and McDowell Shortcut were supposed to take four years. “That’s unacceptable,” said State Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, who chaired the group that allocated funding for the project. That was four years ago.

The bid for the $7.4 million project that is designed to relieve traffic backups that reach Bypass 17 is due to be let this month, said Stacey Johnson, the project manager for the state Department of Transportation.

Goldfinch stepped down last week as chairman of the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study policy committee.

“It’s funny how that works,” he said.

But Goldfinch warned that there is an even bigger traffic problem looming in the form of a 307-unit multifamily development on the southern border of Horry County. It will add traffic to one of the area’s worst intersections.

“That’s going to be a ginormous failure on Day One. Everybody sees it coming and no one’s doing anything to fix it,” he said.

The four-story apartment complex sits on Old Kings Highway, which runs south to Highway 707 and north to a four-way intersection with a traffic signal on Bypass 17. The intersection of 17 and 707 was rebuilt about five years ago and reached failing levels of service last year.

For a group that works with five-year plans and 20-year plans, there isn’t much GSATS can do, except draw attention to the problem. Tournament Boulevard is a good example, Goldfinch said. Without putting pressure on DOT to advance the project, it would have taken even longer. It was actually put out for bid last year, but the price jumped from $5.1 million and only one company bid.

“It took a lot of fussing, fighting and wrangling to get that done,” he said, adding that for projects around the region “we have significantly improved the wait time.”

State Rep. Lee Hewitt will replace Goldfinch as chairman of the committee, which is comprised of representatives of local government around the region and responsible for prioritizing projects for federal funding. Because of the committee’s makeup, the chairman’s ability to highlight concerns has added impact, Goldfinch said.

“Without the support of staff and the other members, it doesn’t matter how much you put your thumb on the scale,” he said. “The job requires somebody fairly active who can respond to members, constituents and staff.”

Goldfinch is leaving in June for a sixth-month deployment as an Army Reservist in Djibouti, so he decided it was time to hand over the gavel.

Hewitt was in Columbia last week when the policy committee elected him chairman. He said this week that one of his top concerns is the apartment complex.

“How does that impact Georgetown County,” he asked. “I’m already getting a lot of people calling me about that.”

The intersection of Old Kings Highway and Highway 701 is less than 600 feet from the Bypass 17 intersection. A traffic study for Highway 17 on the Waccamaw Neck completed for GSATS in 2021 called for creating a loop road to reduce left turns at the intersection. Goldfinch has said an overpass would be a better, if more costly, solution.

“You keep having hot spots pop up,” Hewitt said.

Any solution to managing traffic from the apartments will have to come from the two counties, Goldfinch said. Funds they receive from the state gas tax are allocated by county transportation committees for road projects.

“That’s now money,” he said.

GSATS would need to add the work to its five-year list of intersection improvements, which currently has work scheduled through 2028. That list doesn’t include work on the 17-707 intersection, which Georgetown County Council approved, but didn’t submit to GSATS for funding last year. 

Even if GSATS can’t provide timely funding, it still has a role, Goldfinch said. He said the problem isn’t anyone’s fault, but shows a lack of coordination.

“We need to start thinking about solutions and being solution makers,” he told the policy committee at the end of their meeting.

And the thought of adding an estimated 1,800 daily trips to an area that is already a choke point should help focus attention on solutions.

“Your mind can’t fathom the amount of failure,” Goldfinch said.



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