After about a year and a half of work, the extension of Coventry Boulevard opened Monday with a new light on U.S. Highway 17 Bypass.
Officials flipped the switch on the light around 9:30 a.m. Monday after a little more than a week of flashing to warn drivers the traffic change was coming.
The owners of the Clemson tract of property located on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force based paid for the nearly $4 million project to help people traveling north on the bypass to get to The Market Common without having to use the new traffic configuration at the back gate. Myrtle Beach will own and maintain the road.
The traffic pattern will give drivers heading north on the bypass the option of avoiding the new traffic pattern at the “back gate” – where the road intersects with the Farrow Parkway and S.C. 707 – when going to The Market Common.
Drivers traveling south on U.S. 17 Bypass will have a new left-turn lane get onto Coventry Boulevard. Those on Coventry will have two left-turn lanes, one right-turn lane and one lane to go straight across to the hospital.
According to a 2013 memorandum sent to DOT from Thomas & Hutton, the company that constructed the road, about 43,500 vehicles per day pass by the future Coventry Boulevard intersection with the bypass.
“Given the anticipated 2015 volumes and the proposed lane configuration, the intersection should be signalized as part of the initial construction,” Thomas & Hutton traffic engineer Jeff Ingham wrote in the memo.
Developers said the need of a signal is based on guidelines from the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, adding that peak-hour volume estimates for 2015 exceed the requirements.
Myrtle Beach drivers also will soon see a new traffic pattern at Seaboard Commons. Beginning next week, drivers who are entering the shopping center from U.S. 17 Bypass on Commons Avenue will come to a stop sign at Seaboard Street.
“When we first opened that street, the [S.C. Department of Transportation] requested that we put the stop sign on Seaboard,” Myrtle Beach Department of Public Works Director Bill Oliver said. “They were concerned that there would be enough traffic coming in off the bypass that cars would back up onto the bypass. ... But we haven’t seen it backing up there.”
The intersection will become a four-way stop on March 17. On March 31, crews will remove the stop signs from Seaboard Street, creating a two-way stop for those on Commons Avenue.
“We have not done a traffic count there,” Oliver said. “We’re doing it based on history and observation. Our traffic guys say it should have always been this way.”
Oliver said 27 “fender benders” occurred at the intersection of Seaboard Street and Commons Avenue between May 10, 2009, and Feb. 28, 2015.
“Looking at the number of accidents that have occurred at that intersection since it opened, we decided to make the change,” he said.