Backgate Project will make traffic worse before it gets better

Horry County officials call Highway 17 By-pass and SC Route 707 one of the worst interchanges in the area, and a project to ease congestion will likely cause more delays until the three-year project is complete.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation( plans to build a bridge on 17 By-pass that will overpass SC 707. Once completed, cars traveling on 17 By-pass won't have to stop. Traffic traveling onto Highway 707 will take a ramp to exit.

Construction on the interchange is set to start Monday, June 6.

The DOT promises to cause the least amount of delays to drivers by keeping two lanes of traffic in both directions open during the day and limiting single lane closures to the evening.

"The traffic will get worse before it gets better," says SCDOT's Mike Barbee, "especially during holiday weekends like the 4th of July."

Even on a regular weekday, cars sometimes have to wait three to five minutes until they can get through the crowded intersection. Officials suggest drivers plan ahead in order to miss traffic.

"Locals will start to realize this will have to be a lifestyle change and find an alternative route in the meantime," says Horry County's Lisa Bourcier.

"You'll have to deal with finding your way around the construction zone if you plan to go that way," says Myrtle Beach Spokesman Mark Kruea.

The project, which was funded by the One-Cent Capital Projects Sales Tax for roads, will cost between $95 and $105 million. The federal government gave SCDOT $15 million in order to help the project along.

The SCDOT plans to mostly construct the new interchange project between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays, but construction may include some weekends and evenings.

The speed limit along 17 By-pass will be reduced from 55 mph to 45 mph in order to increase safety in the construction zones.

When asked why construction was starting at the busiest traffic time of the year, Horry County officials said getting the project done as soon as possible was their first priority.

Project officials have broken construction into nine stages in order to keep two traffic lanes in both directions always open during the day.

The county expects to complete the final stage of the interchange in August 2014.

What do you think about the backgate project? Do you think it will be worth hassle?