Northbound U.S. 501, from Tanger Outlets to Gardner Lacy Road, will be widened to three lanes by Memorial Day if the area doesn’t experience an extraordinary amount of rain, a state official said.
Leah Quattlebaum, project manager with the S.C. Department of Transportation, said the nearly $5 million extension project is moving along swiftly.
“If everything goes according to plan – that’s no serious rain events or any other unforeseen issues that come up – they anticipate having the road opened up by Memorial Day,” Quattlebaum said. “They are actually starting the paving at night now. They will be doing that over the next two months, pretty much leading up to the vacation season.”
Grading and utility work is being done during the day and crews are working overnight to pave the road and will eventually begin constructing and paving the third lane between Waccamaw Pines Drive and Gardner Lacy Road. Quattlebaum said lane closures for the project are prohibited from mid-May through Labor Day, so the cooperation of the weather is vital.
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Bo Ives, president of the Carolina Forest Civic Association, said the traffic problem along U.S. 501 has been brewing for a while. Currently, S.C. 31 dumps into what becomes a turn lane for the Tanger Outlets, putting merging traffic and turning traffic in one lane.
“Just as traffic is tapering from [S.C.] 31 coming on to [U.S.] 501, people are turning into Tanger,” Ives said. “The people who are tapering off of 31 are speeding, and the people who are turning into Tanger are slowing down, and it’s nothing but a conflict. We wanted this project to help with this whole event because it was never planned properly with the traffic coming off of 31.
“With the entrance into Forest Square Shopping Center, this will all work so there will be an additional lane of travel and then better accommodate the turnoffs into Tanger and into Forest Square.”
Ives said the road improvements are overdue.
“We’re looking forward to it because it’s just not safe,” Ives said. “We also believe that people are bypassing the tangle in front of Tanger and coming to Carolina Forest Boulevard using Grissom Parkway as their main entrance [to U.S. 501] into Conway just to avoid that tangle. We think that a large amount of traffic that comes to Carolina Forest is diverting that mess, and we hope that the traffic will lessen somewhat in Carolina Forest once that improvement is made.”
“The further they can go with this project before Memorial Day, the better off we’ll be.”