Traffic shift, detours coming to backgate construction area

Big changes are coming next week to one of the Grand Strand's busiest intersections. Traffic will be re-routed to make way for construction work on the Highway 17 and 707 interchange.

When the backgate interchange is completed, it will speed traffic through what is now one of the most clogged intersections in Horry County, but state transportation officials say that won't be until August, 2014.

For the next two years, local drivers will have to get used to a couple of streets - Ranchette Circle and Coalition Drive - being closed off permanently to Highway 17, and other streets, including Northgate Boulevard and Crow Lane, seeing heavy use to detour traffic around construction.

Many drivers are dreading it.

"It's going to be a nightmare," said MaryAnn McGirr of Myrtle Beach. "I mean, we're 8 months into a 4 year project and I'm not looking forward to it, because there's really not as easy way for me to get from where I live to where I got to go."

During the weekend of June 1, SC DOT officials say traffic on Highway 17 will be switched over to newly-constructed lanes, but there will always be four lanes of traffic open on the road, except for a few overnight hours. No left-hand turns will be allowed on Highway 17 at the intersection during the 26-hour period of the changeover.

Drivers will still be able to access Market Common on Farrow Parkway and other locations on Socastee Boulevard, but it'll be by different routes, so drivers are urged to watch the variable message boards that will be posted in the area, and drive carefully.

"If you've driven it every day, you get used to it being a certain way, but it'll be a different traffic pattern, so safety and following the traffic laws is of extreme importance," said Mike Barbee, DOT construction manager for the interchange project.

Market Common officials say they're not concerned the traffic changes will have a big impact on their business.

"(DOT has) done a really good job of making sure the public is aware of the changes that will be happening and that all of our stores are aware of what is happening," said marketing manager Hatton Gravely.

By coincidence, the Taste of the Market Common festival will happen the same weekend as the traffic changeover. Festival visitors are urged to use the Kings Highway entrance to Market Common.

Click here for a DOT map of the traffic changes.