Myrtle Beach aims to make Kings Highway more pedestrian-friendly

One of Myrtle Beach's busiest thoroughfares could see some big changes in years to come.

City leaders want to make the Kings Highway corridor a better and safer place for pedestrians.

Bill Wrenn has been running a liquor store on South Kings Highway for more than 15 years and remembers a time when more of his business came from walk-in traffic.

"It was constant people walking up and down here and now, it's not near the traffic that used to be," Wrenn said.

Wrenn says he's all in favor of an effort to make the busy thoroughfare more pedestrian-friendly.

A Myrtle Beach committee has come up with a list of recommendations, like lowering speed limits from 45 to 35 miles per hour in some places, reducing what is now a six-lane highway to four-lanes, improving crosswalks, adding sidewalks in places where there are none and in general, making the corridor a better place for walking.

"Incorporating more landscaping, widening the sidewalks, maybe in some sections have on-street parking, maybe in some sections having some bike lanes, things like that," said city planner Kelly Mezzapelle, who has worked closely with the Kings Highway committee.

Mezzapelle says the city is also considering zoning changes to eventually bring commercial buildings closer to the street, with parking in back.

She says Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach has become a place of mostly high-rise hotels, providing plenty of rooms for people to stay in, but not too many places for them to shop or eat without driving. That's one reason why the city wants to change Kings Highway.

"So we want to create an environment in which you can come in, drive in on Sunday and maybe not get back into your car until Wednesday or Thursday because there's so much to do within walking distance."

Mezzapelle says one problem with changing Kings Highway is that it's a long corridor, with different speed limits and number of lanes.

"There are some areas that have six and seven lanes and some areas that only have four and you can get bottlenecks when you have situations like that, so we're looking at making it more uniform, four lanes, maybe five lanes with two lanes in each direction with a turn lane up the middle."

Committee chairman Bill Pritchard says the suggestions for Kings Highway were well-received by city council when the committee made its presentation May 28.

He says city council asked the committee to come up with priorities about which projects the city should do first and where they should go.