As part of the construction project that will see a new terminal open early next year at Myrtle Beach International, a new entrance to the airport and new parking lot for those waiting to pick up arriving passengers will open at 5 a.m. Thursday morning, Oct. 18, airport officials say.
The new permanent entrance will be at the intersection of Harrelson Boulevard and Jetport Road, replacing the entrance that for years has been at the intersection of Harrelson and SC Highway 15. The old entrance will close, said airport marketing director Kirk Lovell.
Also Thursday, airport patrons will no longer be allowed to temporarily park and wait at the terminal curb to pick up arriving passengers. Lovell said nearly every other major airport in the country ended that practice after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, though it was allowed to continue in Myrtle Beach.
Instead, the airport will open what Lovell calls a new 40-space inspection/cell phone lot, where drivers can park temporarily and call arriving passengers to be picked up.
The traffic route for pick up and drop off in front of the terminal will also change, with five lanes of traffic being temporarily routed into one lane, as drivers pass the new terminal now under construction.
Lovell said the possibility that the new route could turn into a traffic bottleneck is what causes him the most concern. But he said the airport is taking steps, including placing flagmen at the old entrance and other spots on the airport grounds, to help patrons avoid confusion.
"Once you get into the airport property, there'll be plenty of signage pointing people in the right direction, along with the flagmen as well," Lovell said.
Airport employees will also be used as customer service representatives to help passengers find their way around.
"We are having volunteers on paid time during their normal shifts come and work in different areas of the airport, so somebody from finance may be working in the baggage claim area," Lovell said.
The changes may cause confusion for longtime airport users, but Lovell said once people get used to the new entrance and traffic patterns, they'll appreciate the change.
"It's actually a lot more convenient, it is lot more space to enter, there's a lot more space to get back onto Harrelson," Lovell said. "It's a learning curve. but I think there'll be, people will quickly adapt and they'll understand and they'll actually appreciate it and they'll speak positively about the changes."
More lanes will open, easing some of the traffic congestion for drivers exiting the airport, when the new terminal opens next year, Lovell said.
Click here to see the new traffic pattern at Myrtle Beach International.