State transportation officials are studying whether to close the median crossover intersection to traffic from the Lauderdale Bay community because of safety concerns.
The proposal comes on the heels of the state’s closure of a nearby crossover along U.S. 17 Bypass at Shetland Lane, where numerous traffic accidents including two fatalities occurred last year.
The Shetland Lane median crossing was blocked by orange barriers for three months as part of a construction project for a nearby Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.
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When the barriers were finally removed this week, state transportation officials replaced them with a grassy median.
Mike Bethea, district traffic engineer for the S.C. Transportation Department, said a traffic accident history of the Lauderdale Boulevard intersection has been requested, and state officials will also conduct a traffic count before making a determination to close the median.
“We want to make the roads as safe as possible, to improve safety any way we can,” Bethea said. “If it has a high accident rate, that’s one thing we will look at.”
Bethea noted the excessive number of accidents at the Shetland interchange, where drivers made risky left-turns across the highway to enter and exit that neighborhood, and the similarities to the traffic pattern at the Lauderdale Bay entrance.
We want to make the roads as safe as possible, to improve safety any way we can.
Mike Bethea, district traffic engineer, S.C. Transportation Department
“When we started, it kind of made sense because (the median openings) were so close, and we’ve had some questions about it since then — why not do both if we are going to do one?” Bethea said.
“Shetland had a higher than normal accident rate,” Bethea said. “We don’t want to see any accidents, but we know we are going to have some in some places. In places where it’s higher than expected, that’s the one you want to look at and try to improve.”
Bethea did not estimate how long it will take for officials to determine whether to close the intersection, but noted that the traffic count will take at least a month to complete.
“We’re just beginning the process,” Bethea said.
The Lauderdale Bay community is in Horry County’s jurisdiction, and officials will be watching for the the study’s outcome with interest.
“The median opening has been a safety concern for a while, and we are glad that SCDOT is studying the situation and will come back with a solution to improve the safety in that area for our locals and visitors,” said Lisa Bourcier, county spokeswoman.