There’s only about a month until Memorial Day weekend and many still have questions about navigating the 23-mile traffic loop that will be in place from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. May 22 to 24.
The traffic loop routes drivers from 29th Avenue North on Ocean Boulevard south and around to Kings Highway, north to Harrelson Boulevard – which turns into George Bishop Parkway – west to Waccamaw Boulevard, which runs next to U.S. Highway 501, onto S.C. 31 heading north to Grissom Parkway south, then onto U.S. 17 Bypass and down 29th Avenue North.
Grand Strand officials have been working for months to develop a safety plan to help get control of Memorial Day weekend, when tens of thousands of people come to the area to take advantage of a three-day weekend at the beach or to participate in other events including the Atlantic Beach Bikefest.
Below is a list of answers to frequently asked questions regarding the traffic loop, based on information from Lt. Joey Crosby with the Myrtle Beach Police Department.
Question | When is the loop in effect?
Answer | 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., May 22 to 24.
Q. | Where does the loop begin?
A. | The loop is considered to begin at 29th Avenue North and U.S. 17 Bypass. Drivers who wish to continue south on U.S. 17 Bypass will not be required to get into the loop at 29th Avenue North.
Q. | Where does the one-way southbound traffic on Ocean Boulevard begin and end?
A. | Ocean Boulevard from 29th Avenue North to Kings Highway will be southbound only from May 22 to 24 to make room for an emergency lane.
Q. | How can I access Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, south of 29th Avenue North, during non-loop hours?
A. | Drivers will be able to access Ocean Boulevard only from avenues that have a stoplight at Kings Highway, such as 21st Avenue North, 16th Avenue North, Third Avenue South and 17th Avenue South.
Q. | When is my first opportunity to exit the traffic loop?
A. | There will be message boards at U.S. 501 alerting drivers who wish to get out of the loop that they can continue on U.S. 501 North or head south on S.C. 31. Those wishing to return to Myrtle Beach or the festival will be alerted to take S.C. 31 North.
Q. | If I don’t want to take U.S. 501 where else can I get out of the traffic loop?
A. | There will be additional signage along S.C. 31 that tells those wishing to leave the loop they can continue North and telling festival traffic to stay to the right and exit onto Grissom Parkway.
Q. | How can I access Ocean Boulevard, south of 29th Avenue North, during loop hours?
A. | Drivers will only be able to access Ocean Boulevard from 29th Avenue North.
Q. | How will equipment be set up before and after loop hours?
A. | Equipment such as barrels and cones will be pre-staged at various locations along the loop and will be put up and ready to go into effect at 10 p.m. Barricades will be along Ocean Boulevard the entire weekend to separate festival traffic from a dedicated emergency lane and to separate pedestrians from vehicle traffic. Barricades also will be set up all weekend at a traffic chute at 29th Avenue North on Kings Highway when drivers wanting to attend the festival will be directed toward Ocean Boulevard.
Q. | When will traffic along the loop return to normal?
A. | Traffic may not return to normal immediately at 2 a.m. It will depend on how the traffic is moving. Officers could do a tiered take-down of equipment or take it all down at once.
Q. | Will Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach be open to traffic?
A. | Kings Highway traffic north of Harrelson Boulevard will be open to drivers heading both north and south, with drivers having the choice to get into the loop using a traffic chute at 29th Avenue North. Drivers heading south on Kings Highway will have to turn around before Harrelson Boulevard or will join loop traffic, where their first opportunity to get out of the loop will not come until Waccamaw Boulevard and U.S. Highway 501. Drivers heading north into Myrtle Beach on Kings Highway will be turned around near the Myrtle Beach State Park.
Q. | Will I be able to access Broadway at the Beach?
A. | Those wishing to go to the Broadway at the Beach must use 21st Avenue North, Grissom Parkway or U.S. 17 Bypass. There will be no access to Broadway at the Beach from 29th Avenue North.
Q. | What is the best way for me to get to my hotel on Ocean Boulevard, south of 29th Avenue North, during loop hours?
A. | Mr. Joe White Avenue and 21st Avenue North will be open for use to get to hotels that have parking on the west side of Ocean Boulevard. If hotel parking is located on the oceanfront, hotel guests must get into the loop at 29th Avenue North and then alert police or security when parking at their hotel.
Q. | If I need to fly out of Myrtle Beach International Airport, or pick someone up, how should I get there?
A. | Travelers taking flights out of Myrtle Beach International Airport must enter Harrelson from northbound U.S. 17 Bypass. The exit to Harrelson from southbound U.S. 17 Bypass will be blocked to traffic. Drivers heading south on U.S. 17 Bypass wishing to go to the airport will have to make a U-turn at Shetland Lane or farther south to head north on U.S. 17 to Harrelson Boulevard.
Q. | How should I exit the airport?
A. | All drivers leaving the airport will have to turn right onto Harrelson, keeping them separate from loop traffic, they then will turn right onto Kings Highway and can get to Myrtle Beach from S.C. 544.
Q. | Which way should I enter and leave The Market Common?
A. | People leaving The Market Common should use U.S. 17 Bypass. Those coming onto Kings Highway will be diverted south.
Q. | If I’m traveling north on Kings Highway, how will I know when I’m approaching the traffic loop, and how to avoid it if I want?
A. | Message boards will be placed at S.C. Highway 544 alerting motorists on Kings Highway that traffic will be diverted and sent back toward Surfside Beach. Those wishing to enter Myrtle Beach will have to do so from U.S. 17 Bypass.
Q. | What if I work at Coastal Grand mall, or want to see a movie at the mall after 10 p.m.?
A. | All going to or from Coastal Grand mall after 10 p.m. – to visit the movie theater or employees leaving work – must use Pine Island Road and U.S. 17 Bypass.
Q. | What if I need to drive myself to the hospital?
A. | Those who need to access the hospital should use U.S. 17 Bypass. Drivers are asked to access the emergency room directly from U.A. 17 Bypass, and not use 82nd Parkway.
Q. | Will taxis be allowed to drop off and pick up customers at locations within the loop?
A. | Police have said they will be reasonable and work with taxi drivers as best they can.
Q. | If I am driving on Grissom Parkway or Oak Street, will I be able to cross 29th Avenue North?
A. | No. Vehicles will only allowed to cross 29th Avenue North at Kings Highway and U.S. 17 Bypass.
Q. | Will Ocean Boulevard be open north of 29th Avenue North?
A. | Yes. However, drivers on Ocean Boulevard heading south will be turned off of Ocean Boulevard around 31st Avenue North.
Q. | If I’m driving south from Restaurant Row, can I stay on U.S. 17 Business?
A. | No. All traffic heading into Myrtle Beach from Restaurant Row will be diverted onto U.S. 17 Bypass.
This list will be updated as more questions come up. Feel free to bookmark this page and check back often.
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or on Twitter @TSN_mprabhu.