Buckle up for Highway 17 construction changes

The north and southbound lanes of Highway 17 Bypass at Highway 707 in Horry County are shifting on Friday.

Since last June, construction at the intersection of Highway 17 Bypass and Highway 707 has created congestion and confusion.

But this the first major milestone on the US17 Bypass/SC707 Interchange Project, according to Horry County's public information officer, Lisa Bourcier.

"The northbound lanes will shift to the newly created road right next to the Bypass and the southbound lanes will shift to the current northbound lanes," said Bourcier.

The lane shift will occur at approximately 8 p.m. Friday, and a temporary restriction of left turns from the Bypass onto 707 will begin at 7 a.m. Saturday and last until 9 a.m. Sunday, said Bourcier.

Travelers wanting to turn left from the northbound lanes of the Bypass must take the Frontage Road before the intersection to the Temperance Connector and turn left at Farrow Parkway.

Drivers wanting to turn left from the southbound lanes must take Northgate Boulevard, which is past the intersection, and follow it up to Highway 707.

Traffic from Highway 707 to the Bypass will remain the same throughout the weekend.

"The lane shift will last for two years while construction continues around along the Bypass, but the restriction of left hand turns will last the 26 hours over the weekend so traffic lights can be shifted over. Workers will not stop until the phase is completed," Bourcier said.

Tommy Morris owns Coastline Pet Supply near the intersection and has kept a close eye on the traffic.

"People come in all the time and ask me if I'm going to close, and I tell them I'm not," said Morris.

He said the area's traffic hasn't affected the business so far, but with changes coming, he worries the traffic outside will affect the foot traffic through his store.

"I don't know what's going to happen," said Morris. "I'm pleased with the job so far. I know if they would have not done stages and tore it down all at once that would have created a huge problem...But I'll be happy when it's all done."

Horry County doesn't expect the Bypass construction to be complete until August 2014.

"We're trying to make it as convenient for people as possible," said Bourcier. "There will still be some night time lane closures and the speed limit will remain 45 mph."

Several electronic message boards and signage will be located at the intersection advising drivers of the detours and Horry County police officers and Highway Patrolmen will be located at the intersection to ensure safety during this 24-hour period, said Bourcier.

Tuesday, Ranchette Circle and Coalition Drive intersections at 17 Bypass will be closed permanently.

Also on Tuesday, access from southbound to the bypass from Port Drive (near Jamin' Leather) will be a right-in, right-out directly onto the bypass. Drivers will not be allowed to cross the bypass from Port Drive to the northbound lanes.

All of these traffic changes have been a part of the original project.

The county estimates 70,000-80,000 cars pass through the intersection during the peak of the tourist season.