International Drive to get pedestrian-friendly improvements

One of the sections of International Drive that will be expanded and have sidewalks installed.

Sidewalks will be built on International Drive as part of a planned expansion of the roadway.

The road will soon be a five-lane road, with two lanes in each direction and a center turn lane, similar to S.C. 544 and S.C. 707, according to Horry County Spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier.

The sidewalks will be constructed between River Oaks Drive and the existing sidewalks near Ocean Bay Elementary and Middle schools.

But, not everyone is excited about the expansion. Some residents nearby wonder why they're not getting sidewalks too.

"There's a lot of people in this community that go out and exercise after dark...many times I almost run up on them because there's no lights for them to be seen. There's no sidewalks for them to walk on, so we're sharing the road with motor vehicles which is hazardous to all those people," said Tom Gouker, who lives in Carolina Forest.

Gouker's area is also under construction. Crews there are working on new turn lanes on Carolina Forest Boulevard but that project doesn't include sidewalks, something Gouker believes residents there need for safety.

Bourcier said there are plans for sidewalks and bike paths in the Carolina Forest area too.

She said that the county's got a plan in place, but it could be more than two years away from happening.

"I think it's about a six phase program for that, but again it's funding. We have to put a program together first, or at least a plan together on paper before we can actually go out and seek funding," she said.

The construction on International Drive also includes a new traffic signal at the primary driveways for the schools where there is currently a four-way intersection and additional turn lanes at the River Oaks Drive intersection, Bourcier said.

Bourcier said the county is currently in the environmental permitting phase for the International Drive project and expects to receive the permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in November and construction to begin around the beginning of 2015.

The project is estimated to cost $15.5 million and is expected to take a year to complete.