County officials are moving ahead Tuesday with a plan to build an interchange linking S.C. 31 to Carolina Forest -- after telling an opponent of the project last week they didn’t have the millions needed to fund it.
The interchange plan for S.C. 31 -- also known as Carolina Bays Parkway -- has been on the books since the original plans for the community of Carolina Forest were filed in 1997.
But that was before tens of thousands of residents bought homes there, and not everyone in the new neighborhood is on board for a highway cloverleaf looping so close to their backyards.
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Residents near Juxa Drive have voiced concerns on social media about the proposed interchange. The Rev. L’Tonya Johnson told the Horry County Council last week that it would destroy the peaceful retirement years he planned when he bought a Carolina Forest home.
“If that road is placed behind our home, that quiet is going to be disturbed, emissions put into the air, and it will dampen our golden years,” Johnson said.
Council officials suggested that the interchange project was not imminent.
But, in response to Johnson’s comments at the Feb. 21 council meeting, Councilman Bill Howard asked whether the cost of the interchange would prohibit the county from ever building it.
“Never say never,” said Mark Lazarus, Horry County Council chairman.
Although the funding is not immediately available, a council committee on Tuesday will take up an ordinance to officially map the interchange and right-of-way to block future development in that spot.
A memo outlining the benefits of the interchange from the county planning department say the interchange will allow local drivers to avoid busy intersections at U.S. 501 and River Oaks Drive by creating the direct route to and over S.C. 31.
The interchange would link Juxa Drive that runs along the west side of S.C. 31 from Augusta Plantation Drive on the east side of the highway.
“This will also provide a safe and easy connection between two school sites,” the memo said of the eventual interchange. “This ordinance will prohibit development from being permitted within the necessary right-of-way until such time as Horry County decides if they will purchase the right of way.”
If the committee approves the ordinance, it will be forwarded to the full council for consideration.
Funding the interchange was initially discussed as part of the RIDE III road construction project but the necessary $47 million was not included. The RIDE III project contained a dozen major road projects plus other paving improvements funded by a one percent sales tax, and was approved by voters in November.