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Myrtle Beach to hold second meeting on ‘Golden Mile’ parking plan

Several cars are parked near the 39th Avenue North beach access on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach on Friday. The city is considering changes to parking, speed limits and fees along “The Golden Mile.” “The Golden Mile” is on Ocean Boulevard from 31st Avenue North to 52nd Avenue North.
Several cars are parked near the 39th Avenue North beach access on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach on Friday. The city is considering changes to parking, speed limits and fees along “The Golden Mile.” “The Golden Mile” is on Ocean Boulevard from 31st Avenue North to 52nd Avenue North. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

More than 100 concerned citizens filled the Myrtle Beach City Council chambers last Tuesday to hear a city proposal aimed to relieve some of the parking woes along “The Golden Mile.”

Each summer, beachgoers descend on the residential stretch of Ocean Boulevard – unspoiled by high-rise hotels and the crowds they accommodate – claiming unmarked parking spaces on each side of the four-lane roadway. The extra cars have forced cyclists to fend for themselves in the narrowed travel lanes and have hindered the eyesight of drivers and pedestrians escaping from avenues or driveways.

“It’s a nightmare waiting to happen,” said Sue Hudgins, who lives in “The Golden Mile.”

But a majority of residents, who attended last Tuesday’s meeting and plan to return for a second meeting to voice concerns Tuesday night, aren’t too pleased with the city’s proposed changes.

City Manager John Pedersen said the plan was “very poorly received” at the first meeting.

Recommendations in the proposal include narrowing the four-lane roadway to two lanes, with bike lanes, and parallel parking spaces limited to the western side of Ocean Boulevard. The spaces would be metered and fetch higher prices to encourage out-of-town visitors to park in cheaper downtown lots.

But “Golden Mile” residents have hoped the city would change their stretch of Ocean Boulevard from 31st Avenue North to 52nd Avenue North to look like the rest of the boulevard – with two lanes lined with bike lanes and center medians for turning and no on-street parking.

557 cars estimated to line both sides of ‘The Golden Mile’ during busy summer months

City leaders are wary of nixing on-street parking altogether, saying that would cause the problem to spill over onto the avenues.

A second community meeting to present the proposal and hear from the public will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Ted C. Collins Law Enforcement Center.

Hudgins says she’ll be there.

Parked cars are already encroaching on the avenues, she said.

The “Golden Mile” resident appreciates the work the city has put into studying the issue.

“They listened to our concerns about safety and commercialization,” she said. “We would still prefer our proposal, but you still have to listen (to what everyone has to say) and safety is the biggest priority.”

The profusion of parked cars has made it very hard for residents to safely pull out of driveways. Pedestrians and bicyclists have also raised concerns with the extra traffic.

It’s a nightmare waiting to happen.

Sue Hudgins, resident of ‘The Golden Mile’

City engineer Ryan Harvey told the city council last month that the Ocean Boulevard stretch on its busiest day is estimated to host as many as 557 cars abutting driveways and street ends that hamper safe traffic visibility.

A team was formed to study the issue. The group recommended the city limit the lanes, add bike lanes and lower the speed limit from 35 to 25 mph. They recommended crosswalks for pedestrians at each intersection.

For parking, the team recommended the city eliminate parking on the east side of the boulevard and organize the west side with about 190 parallel spaces, pushed back from driveways and street ends to promote safe traffic visibility. The spaces would demand higher prices at $3 an hour or $15 a day to park for non-city residents.

The team estimated there were about 340 designated street-end parking spaces in the area, which would also reap the higher parking fees from non-city residents.

190 spaces would be offered with meters on one side of Ocean Boulevard under the plan

But the gap in parking on Ocean Boulevard would leave the city to look elsewhere for the 367 parking spaces that have clogged the roadway in seasons past. To curb a proliferation of parked cars from moving to the avenues, the team suggested the city limit parking on the avenues to city residents with parking decals and only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from May 15-Sept. 15.

Harvey said they recommend the city prohibit parking along Beach Drive and encourage day trippers to park in downtown lots, creating a special discounted parking system for county residents.

Under the proposed system, county residents could purchase a parking decal for the season at $100 – good for discounts at specific downtown parking lots, Harvey said.

The team also recommended finding other remote surface parking lots where visitors can park, which may require a shuttle service to designated street ends and public beach accesses.

Pedersen said the city won’t make any changes to the plan between meetings held to gather public input, “but almost certainly will afterward.”

Emily Weaver: 843-444-1722, @TSNEmily

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