North Carolina officials join Grand Strand transportation board

jrodriguez@thesunnews.comOctober 4, 2013 

— Four North Carolina officials were added to the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study board Friday, a move that some officials hope will open the door to more congruency regarding the region’s transportation needs.

Earlier this year, Myrtle Beach became the first city in South Carolina to add a county from a different state – Brunswick County in North Carolina – to its Metropolitan Statistical Area, or a region tied to each other centered by a strong metropolitan city.

Brunswick County Commissioner Chairman Phil Norris, Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Sloane Smith, N.C. Department of Transportation board member John Lennon and Shallotte, N.C. Alderman Walt Eccard were added to the board.

Eccard is running unopposed for mayor of Shallotte, which is a town about 15 miles from the South Carolina state line. He said it will be interesting to be in conversations with South Carolina officials, something his town does not normally do.

“I think it’s going to be interesting working together,” Eccard said. “It’s certainly a new thing to go across state lines, at least from my perspective. I think that hopefully we’ll be able to develop a good cooperative sense of working together.

Without specifying any particular projects, Eccard said it will be good to have the partnership in place if something were to come up in the future.

“The roads that move from North Carolina to South Carolina and where the improvements are, we need to coordinate that so those projects could move forward in an expeditious fashion,” he said. “I think also just hearing the issues and problems that are encountered here can give us an insight to similar issues that we may be facing there.”

He said he hopes funding can be linked to this multi-state partnership.

“I would hope that, especially on those projects across state boundaries, that by getting two states involved and working together that we might be able to make more progress,” Eccard said. “But that’s just a hope.”

Some of the main roads that link Horry County with North Carolina includes Highway 179 into Calabash, U.S. 17 into Carolina Shores, Mineola Avenue just south of the Farmstead Golf Links and S.C. 57 just west of the golf links, which is the road Rep. Nelson Hardwick used as an example when explaining the collaboration.

“There will be more funding,” Hardwick said. “If Horry County found some money and we wanted to four lane 57, it would come up in this meeting a year ahead.”

He said it’s all about partnering with those who are making Myrtle Beach’s Metropolitan Statistical Area bigger.

“What we call Myrtle Beach has grown significantly to the border,” he said. “This will allow for better planning. We’re planning for a community. Things link. We hope to save money and provide better highway system in the end.”

Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.

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