Turnout was heavy Tuesday for a South Carolina Department of Public Transportation public hearing at Socastee High School to discuss the extension of S.C. 31 down to S.C. 707, which also is scheduled for widening.
More than 100 people filtered into the school’s commons area to study maps of the project and offer comments during the public hearing portion. As is fitting for a project of this size, opinions differed.
Roland and Martha Morin, who have called the Osprey Cove neighborhood off S.C 707 home for the last 10 years, laughed when a Sun News reporter asked their thoughts.
Their laughter seemed to stem from frustration over road construction they feel will make a situation worse.
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“They’re just moving the traffic,” Roland Morin said. He elaborated that by extending S.C. 31, it will dump that traffic onto an already crowded S.C. 707.
Martha Morin wishes the extension would continue on to U.S. 17, south of Pawleys Plantation.
“We have schools all up and down,” she said, adding that S.C. 31 is not traveled as heavily as project organizers planned.
John Jackson said it will be nice to have S.C. 31 extend to S.C. 707, so residents can avoid traveling on S.C. 544.
He said he doesn’t live near a right-of-way, so “my tree isn’t being cut down.”
“My ox isn’t getting gorged,” Jackson said.
The forum addressed not only widening S.C. 707 to five lanes from Enterprise Road to U.S. 17 Bypass at Murrells Inlet, but also the next phase of the S.C. 31 extension from S.C. 544 down to S.C. 707.
Mike Barbee, project manager, previously said the permit process is ongoing, and hopes are to get it to contract in the spring or summer and begin construction in late summer 2013. The work is still scheduled to last for three years, with an estimated completion in the fall of 2016.
The S.C. 31 extension is budgeted around $215 million, Barbee said. The S.C. 707 widening has a current price tag between $85 and $95 million.
The funding was promised by the state infrastructure bank and to be matched with county money collected through the 1-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2006.
During the public comments portion, more than 50 people gathered in the school’s auditorium to hear what other residents had to say.
Two signed up to speak.
The first was Surfside Beach Mayor Doug Samples, who threw his support behind the project.
“(It) is long overdue,” Samples said.
Nancy Cave, with the Coastal Conservation League, said her organization doesn’t necessarily oppose the project, but there were concerns the group felt weren’t adequately addressed in the environmental assessment.
One of the concerns, Cave said, was the interchange of S.C. 31 and S.C. 707 is a platform for building a bridge across the Waccamaw River.
“We oppose this project ... because it will open thousands of acres to sprawling development, flood (U.S.) 17 with traffic and negatively impact the wildlife refuge,” Cave said.
Public comments on the project will be received until Dec. 28. Officials with SCDOT will then compile the responses and respond.