Tired of U.S. 501 traffic jams? Widening process set to begin.

Businesses too close to U.S. 501 will be told to move out of the way for the six-lane widening project next week.
Businesses too close to U.S. 501 will be told to move out of the way for the six-lane widening project next week. The Sun News file photo

Work on the long-awaited widening of U.S. 501 from Conway to Myrtle Beach gets underway next week with some housekeeping to make sure businesses are out of the public right-of-way for when construction begins.

The lengthy process for design is just getting underway, and collection for tax dollars to complete the work doesn’t begin until May 1.

However, drivers may notice a survey crew doing preliminary work to assess the 300-foot public right-of-way on both sides of the highway.

County officials will then start informing some businesses that they are encroaching, and that it’s time to move out of the path for the expanded six-lane highway before the bids are eventually awarded and earth starts moving.

From car sales to display signs and even storage sheds, businesses have slowly crept closer to the highway over the years, and there are two sections of the busy highway where county officials will focus their efforts.

From Lake Busbee to S.C. 544, where the sale of used cars is encroaching onto the right-of-way, and from S.C. 544 to the outlet mall where the problem is caused by new car sales.

“We try not to fine anybody, our goal is compliance,” said Horry County Planning and Zoning Deputy Director David Schwerd.

“We don’t want to go to court. We don’t want to fine them,” Schwerd said. “They are small business guys just trying to make a living, but we need compliance, and it’s also for the safety of the motoring public.”

Schwerd showed members of the Horry County Council’s Infrastructure and Regulations Committee on Tuesday pictures of the problem, including one car lot with 42 vehicles parked in the public space.

“We’re doing what we need to make sure the right-of-way is clear, so that when they go to start construction, they won’t be worrying about damaging equipment and displays,” Schwerd said.

In November, voters overwhelming approved a 1-percent tax on retail sales, accommodations, drinks and prepared food to raise more than $590 million for road construction. The RIDE III project will resurface roads and pave dirt roads, and construct more than a dozen major road projects.

The $50 million, U.S. 501 project calls for six-lane widening from S.C. 31 to S.C. 544 interchange. It also includes improving parallel roads.

Postal Way would be extended east to Waccamaw Pines. Additionally, Middle Ridge Drive would be extended in both directions: east to West Perry Road and west to Singleton Ridge Road.

More than 50,000 vehicles travel the road each day, which is packed with tourists during the summer months, causing traffic jams and numerous accidents. A completion date for the project will be set once a bid is accepted for the contract.

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson