The mother of all traffic jams is brewing, but little is being done about the impending storm.
Around the first of the new year, the S.C. Department of Transportation will close the Main Street Bridge in Conway for renovation. It could be closed for three months.
SCDOT representatives Stacey Johnson and Rebecca Breland told Conway City Council recently that the firm date to start the work is Jan. 2, 2019.
That date was chosen to interfere as little as possible with heavy tourist traffic.
The duo said workers will be doing a hydrogen demolition of the bridge that will take one to one and one-half inches off of the deck. Crews will come behind that and put a latex layer over it, let that cure and restripe it, which will make it like new.
SCDOT plans to use epoxy on the curb, railing and sidewalks. Epoxy crack injections will be used to repair any problems with the concrete.
Breland said the work is expected to add another 15 years to the bridge’s deck, and if they don’t retrofit it there will be load restrictions in the future.
I understand the need to refurbish the old bridge spanning the Waccamaw River. Furthermore, I agree there is no better time than during the winter months to complete the work.
Nevertheless, local motorists best prepare themselves for some monumental traffic jams.
U.S. 501 Business is one of the most heavily traveled roads in Horry County. During rush hours, traffic can back up for miles. I have frequently had to inch my way from Red Hill to Downtown Conway.
To exacerbate matters, the recently opened International Drive is dumping more traffic onto the Main Street bridge.
When the bridge is closed for repair, people who want to travel between Conway and Myrtle Beach have limited options.
They can detour to U.S. 501 or detour to S.C. 22.
There’s also the option of taking S.C. 905 and then cutting across the Reaves Ferry bridge to S.C. 90 and then to International Drive.
None of these routes are ideal, but motorists won’t have much choice in the matter.
State, county and city officials still have a few months before the bridge closure. They should be meeting now to discuss ways to alleviate as much of the pain as possible.
For example, existing traffic lights in Conway are not adjusted to account for the additional traffic that will be on U.S. 501 when the bridge closes. It could be that policemen will need to be stationed at key intersections.
Traffic from International Drive exiting onto S.C. 90 should be diverted to the Reaves Ferry bridge.
Finally, council should consider taking action to help Downtown Conway businesses that will be significantly impacted by the bridge closure.
Planning needs to start now!