New northbound U.S. 501 lanes to open Friday

New northbound lanes on U.S. 501 are slated to be open Friday — six months prior to the project’s estimated completion date.

Opening the lanes is expected to untangle traffic in front of Tanger Outlet Mall on U.S. 501 just in time for the heavy tourist season.

Kyle Berry, a district engineer with S.C. Department of Transportation, said the goal was to get the bulk of the work done before Memorial Day. He credited the work of Conway-based Palmetto Corp., general contractor for the project, for getting the job done early.

“We’ve finished up all the asphalt paving and we should get all the lanes open [Friday],” Berry said. “The bulk of the work has been completed.”

The contract calls for the entire project to be completed by Nov. 30, and Palmetto Corp. will still have to install rumble strips and permanent lining, which is scheduled to be completed this summer.

The project calls for widening northbound U.S. 501 from Tanger Outlets to Gardner Lacy Road, at a cost of nearly $5 million. The contract stated lane closures for the project were prohibited from mid-May through Labor Day.

The improvements should address the current problem where S.C. 31 dumps into what becomes a turn lane for the Tanger Outlets, putting merging traffic and turning traffic in one lane.

Horry County Councilman Marion Foxworth, who travels U.S. 501 almost daily, helped secure funding for the project, along with Sen. Luke Rankin, fellow Councilman Carl Schwartzkopf, former council chairman Tom Rice, former chairwoman Liz Gilland and others.

“We’ve been working on that for a long time,” Foxworth said Thursday. “Once they started working overnight, that really picked up.”

Foxworth said the plan for the project originally started as local officials wanting to extend an acceleration lane from Tanger Outlet toward Gardner Lacy, but federal officials did not allow that and required them to build the third lane instead.

Berry said it was important to make sure the road was safe for motorists, but it is a bonus to get the large orange barrels off the road as tourists flock to the beach this summer.

“It wouldn’t benefit anybody to have the big orange barrels out there during another tourism season,” Berry said. “The safest thing for everybody involved was to get the work done prior to Memorial Day.”

Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_JRodriguez.