Nearly every day, Azar King walks up and down Little River Neck Road, where his dad lives.
Sometimes, he’s going to the store; sometimes, he’s just getting fresh air.
But he can’t walk on the sidewalk, because none is there.
“Walking out here, you see how people get so close to the edge,” King said. “I think it’d be good to have a sidewalk. Right now, people ain’t aware of you.”
That could change soon.
Thanks to newly-available funding from the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study, North Myrtle Beach will likely start construction next year on a new paved, 8-foot wide, multi-purpose path that runs more than two miles between Hill Street and Harrelson Avenue and can be used by people on foot or on bikes, according to design documents.
“We did a corridor study up in Horry County and North Myrtle Beach probably 10 to 15 years ago, and it was identified at that time as a project the community wanted,” said GSATS Director Mark Hoeweler. “We, until this time, haven’t had the ability to fund it, and wouldn’t again this time unless Horry County and North Myrtle Beach supplied over and above the required 20 percent match.”
The total cost of the project is $1.09 million, and the lion’s share of that money, $627,900, comes from federal funds allocated to the GSATS for its transportation alternatives program. The rest of the funds come from the city and county, who are contributing about $232,000 each.
“We were very fortunate to get this project,” said District 104 state Representative William Bailey. “There was a Georgetown project that was up in the que that was going to take precedent. Georgetown could not match the funds so it pushed this project up to number one.”
The federal funding, originally allocated in 2014, was supposed to go to the city of Georgetown for the East Coast Greenway project, but the city couldn’t come up with the matching funds.
The transportation alternative program money had to be under contract by Sept. 30, Hoeweler said. The GSATS gets about $317,000 a year in federal funds for TAP projects (formerly it was $307,000) and the organization doesn’t want to send any money back.
“We’re very grateful that North Myrtle and Horry County were able to do this and pull this together on short notice, and also for the additional funds that they’re contributing to the project,” Hoeweler said. “Our mission is to allocate the federal funds that come to us and not have to turn over those funds because we didn’t spend it within the time limit.”
North Myrtle Beach in March passed a resolution submitting the multi-purpose path to the GSATS for consideration for funding in case any became available. In September, the GSATS policy committee voted to spend the money on the multi-purpose path.
“We feel like it’s a very worthy project,” said Horry County councilor Harold Worley, who represents the North End. “We have a lot of folks down there. Traffic is very heavy on that road. It was a safety issue, and when the funding became available, we felt like we needed to go after that for that project.”
Last week, the city submitted its application to build the path to the South Carolina Department of Transportation, said city spokesperson Pat Dowling. SCDOT will have have to approve the application and sign an agreement letting North Myrtle manage the project. Between 60 and 90 days after that happens, the city can start construction, Dowling added.
“There’s quite a few people who live on Little River Neck Road,” said Mayor Marilyn Hatley. “Little River Neck Road also has quite a bit of raw property that is beginning to be developed, and I think that more will be developed in the next few years.”
Developments like Tidewater Plantation and Charleston Landing have increased some of the traffic along the road, making conditions more dangerous than they used to be for pedestrians.
“People who have lived on Little River Neck Road all their lives have been able to walk in the road,” Hatley said. “That can’t happen anymore. We’ve had several accidents that have happened in Little River Neck Road.”
Tidewater Plantation Community Association President Cathy Weis said residents are excited for the new path, which will be a boon for everyone in The Neck.
“The multipurpose path will do a lot in that it provides safety for all the cyclists, especially people who want to ride their bikes all the way to the beach,” she said, adding that the path would make it safer for kids getting on and off school busses.
And King noted that a lot of children also walk along the road.
“There’s a lot of kids that play out here, too,” King said. “That’s really the main that thing they need a sidewalk for, is for the kids that be travelling up and down this road going to their friends house.”