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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Half-billion-dollar North Carolina-South Carolina highway project seeks stakeholder input

A proposed half-billion dollar, 19-mile multilane freeway is being studied by both North and South Carolina agencies

A proposed half-billion dollar, 19-mile multilane freeway is being studied by both North and South Carolina agencies. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy North Carolina Department of Transportation)
A proposed half-billion dollar, 19-mile multilane freeway is being studied by both North and South Carolina agencies. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy North Carolina Department of Transportation)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — The Federal Highway Administration is seeking stakeholder input on a half-billion dollar highway project that could reduce traffic times at the North and South Carolina state line.

The proposed Carolina Bays Parkway Extension would extend South Carolina’s existing Carolina Bays Parkway — S.C. 31 — from its existing terminus at S.C. 9 in Horry County to Highway 17 in Brunswick County.

Related: Carolina Bays, the $500 million Brunswick County to South Carolina highway project, begins public process

At an estimated $551.7 million, the new multilane freeway would stretch 19 miles to streamline traffic between Brunswick and Horry Counties.

Last week, the Federal Highway Administration reached out to over a dozen public South Carolina agencies seeking input on the project. The administration is asking stakeholders to provide “meaningful and early input.” Stakeholders are asked to share concerns regarding the project’s potential environmental or socioeconomic impacts that may delay or prevent the project from moving forward.

In May, North and South Carolina public agencies held a meeting to define the purpose and need for the project. The project’s purpose is to “improve the transportation network in the study area by enhancing traffic flow and connectivity for traffic moving in and through the area.”

Approximately five miles in Horry County and 14 miles in Brunswick County are included in the project’s study area.

In January, project partners solicited public comments, of which approximately 130 were received. Project documents state public comments were generally favorable. Heavy traffic on Hickman Road and congestion in Little River could be mitigated, commenters relayed. But some shared they worried the project’s benefits would not outweigh impacts and costs.

The Town of Shallotte weighed in, stating its strong support for the project. It asserted a new freeway could improve safety and create economic benefits to Brunswick County.

At the concurrence point meeting, multiple agencies, including North Carolina Department of Transportation Division 3, Wildlife Resources Commission, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shared concerns about eliminating enhancements to the existing roadway system as an option while moving forward with the study.

Purpose and need

Several roadways in the project area, project documents claim, have higher-than-average crash rates. Citing roadway capacity analyses, project partners state many intersections and roadway segments in the study area will approach or exceed roadway capacity limits in 2040.

“The proposed project offers the potential to reduce the number and severity of vehicle crashes by providing an alternate route to travelers,” according to proposed purpose and need documents. “Separating through traffic from the local traffic that is using the existing roadways to access schools, shopping and services, and residential areas will likely enhance safety.”

A draft environmental impact statement is expected in fall 2020. A final combined draft environmental impact statement is set to be released in fall 2021. Right-of-way acquisition efforts will begin shortly after.

Learn more about the Carolina Bays Parkway Extension at NCDOT’s project page.


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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