$6.5 million in improvements will bury utility lines, widen Crescent Beach section of Ocean Boulevard

mprabhu@thesunnews.comJanuary 31, 2014 

Improvements have been made with medians and underground power lines on Ocean Boulevard in the Windy Hill section of North Myrtle Beach on Friday.

PHOTOS BY JANET BLACKMON MORGAN — jblackmon@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

— Officials in North Myrtle Beach are moving forward with plans for $6.5 million in improvements to Ocean Boulevard in Crescent Beach.

The improvements include two smaller projects that will widen the section of Ocean Boulevard from 15th Avenue South to 38th Avenue South to add a center turn lane and move utilities underground.

“It’s a very congested commercial area,” city spokesman Pat Dowling said. “We need to widen it and put a turning lane in so that people turning into hotels and cottages can turn and the rest of the world can move on north and south.”

The city is working with Santee Cooper to bury the utility lines and the S.C. Department of Transportation, which is funding the $3.5 million project to widen Ocean Boulevard. Burying the utility lines is estimated to cost the city $3 million.

The plan has been in the works for several years and was held up due to a lack of funding, but the money now is in place, the city says. To move the project along, the city applied to the SCDOT to become a “Local Public Agency” and have the ability to manage the state project locally.

If the city receives LPA status, work to bury the utility lines would start this fall or next winter and the road widening would begin in fall or winter of 2015. Both projects are expected to be complete by the fall or winter of 2016, though those dates are not set in stone.

“The good news is that through the LPA process the city will be able to obtain local control of the scheduling and management of the SCDOT road widening project,” public works director Kevin Blayton said in a press release.

Designing and engineering work is underway on the project to bury the utility lines.

City manager Mike Mahaney said that to widen the road, rights of way on both sides of Ocean Boulevard will have to be acquired by the city.

“There’s a lot of acquisition here,” he said. “To underground all the electric and widen the road ... some of the areas near the street are going to have to be condemned.”

Mahaney said once construction is complete, the Crescent Beach section of Ocean Boulevard will look like the section in the Windy Hill area.

“It’s much more attractive,” parks and recreation director John Bullard said. “That turning lane is very helpful.”

The projects also will allow the city to continue to consolidate several older beach outfall pipes into a 72-inch ocean outfall pipe located at 21st Avenue South that was built in 2006. Two of the smaller pipes were removed from the beach when the large diameter pipe was built, Dowling said.

The ocean outfall pipes help decrease the amount of bacteria on the beach and in the swim zone. The near-shore drainage sends heavy stormwater flows into the swim zone after summer thunderstorms and causes spikes in coliform readings. If those readings are too high, the beach has to be closed to swimmers.

The city will not know how many of the smaller pipes can be eliminated during the work until the design is complete, Mahaney said. The city also is consolidating six smaller beach pipes near Main Street into one 84-inch ocean outfall pipe, with construction on that project expected to be complete in the winter of 2015.

“Redirecting the several stormwater pipes from the beach into the outfall pipe is just a portion of the project,” Dowling said. “The greatest amount of work will go toward relocating overhead utilities to underground and widening the boulevard for the .8 mile stretch.”

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.

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