The Carolina Bays Parkway

The Carolina Bays Parkway opened Tuesday, December 17, 2002.  Known as SC 31, the 6-lane controlled access freeway runs north-south from SC 9 to US 501 near Holmestown Road.  It generally parallels US 17 and runs to the north of the Intracostal Waterway.  The 21.53-mile roadway is open from SC 9 to US 501.  The highway consists of four interchanges. In addition to the SC 9 and US 501 interchanges, interchanges with the Conway Bypass (SC 22), and the Grissom Parkway are part of the new highway.  In addition to the construction of the new highway, the Grissom Parkway was extended 1.5 miles and includes a new interchange with the US 17 Bypass.  The cost of design-build highway was approximately $232 million. (TranSystems Corporation)  Construction is now underway for an extension of SC 31 from US 501 south to SC 544.  This will provide further relief to US 17 Bypass, and provide through traffic with a great alternative during the busy tourist seasons.

Construction for a $53 million extension of the Parkway began in 2003.  The new roadway opened on December 15, 2004. (1)  The extension included the completion of the US 501 interchange and an interchange at SC 544.  This section -- known as Phase II -- is 4.6 miles in length and carries six lanes of traffic. (1)  Phase III will see the highway bend east to SC 707 and then widen SC 707 to US 17 near Surfside Beach.

To get funding for Phase III, Horry County officials applied for $150 million in funding from the State Infrastructure Bank on December 15, 2005.  Horry County has used the State Infrastructure Bank successfully in the past, as funding for prior construction of the Carolina Bays Parkway and of the Conway Bypass has been through this bank. (2)  To apply for the bank funds, the areas that apply must have a minimum of one third of the cost in local matching funds, and the project smut be of statewide significance.  Horry County is proposing a one cent sales tax, that must be approved in a ballot measure, that would serve as the local match. (2)

Originally, the Parkway was to extend to US 17 over land owned by Burroughs & Chapin Co., Inc.  The landowners wanted to build on their land, but offered Horry County the opportunity to buy it for the parkway.  At the time, Horry County did not have the money for the land.  Burroughs & Chapin is now building a housing development over the land, and plans for the highway have been truncated back to SC 707. (3)

At the presentation meeting held by the bank on December 15, the state announced that it now had $300 million in funds to award. (3)  Horry County competed against three other proposals for the funding.  The other proposals came from SCDOT, Anderson County, and Charleston County.  The individual proposals are listed below. (4,5)

  1. Anderson County - $150 million to widen 5.5 miles of SC 24, 6.5 miles of US 76, and 10 miles of SC 247
  2. Charleston County - $720 million in total: $420 million to extend I-526 to James Island and $300 million to build a port access road from I-26
  3. Horry County - $150 million for the completion of Phase III of the Carolina Bays Parkway and widen SC 707 to five lanes.
  4. SCDOT - $90 million loan and $48 million grant to widen US 17 in Beaufort and Colleton Counties.  34 people have died on a 22 mile stretch of highway since 1997.
The bank's board traveled to Horry County on January 20, 2006 to take a closer look at where the Parkway's extension would run.  Five months later, the Infrastructure Bank awarded to Horry County $40 million towards construction of the Parkway.  (6)

In order for the Parkway to be extended, Horry County Council in March 2007 to halt development within the Osprey Plantation subdivision.  The decision came to the surprise of many home and lot owners within the development.  Some property owners have claimed that they were not informed that the land they were buying were in the potential path of the Parkway.  The county points to a 2002 zoning map that shows the highway going through Osprey Plantation.  The county contends that the developer should have informed the property owners that they were in the proposed right-of-way.  The county has allocated $40 million in property acquisition for this segment of the Carolina Bays Parkway.  The transfer of land may take some time as a large number of property owners are out-of-state residents that either own or plan to build a vacation home there. (7)

Interstate 74 Aspirations:

In February of 2002, the South Carolina State Legislature formally petitioned to make the Carolina Bays Parkway as part of Interstate 74.  The proposal would run the new interstate along SC 31 from SC 9 to SC 22.  If this proposal is correct, I-74 would then head east towards the coast and terminate at US 17.  As part of that proposal, the North Myrtle Beach Connector, when completed will run from the parkway to Main Street in North Myrtle Beach, would be designated Interstate 174. (SC State House Bill 4826)  The legislation remained stalled into August 2004, as a dispute between two members of South Carolina's legislature, Rep. Tracy Edge R-North Myrtle Beach and Sen. Dick Elliott D-North Myrtle Beach, over wording of the resolution halts its passage.  The dispute on the measure, which carries no legal weight, is over the inclusion of sister Interstate 74 in the wording.  Edge points to Elliott's owning of land near the possible path of I-74.  Elliott prefers to wait until North Carolina decides on its eventual routing of I-74 to push for designating SC 31 as I-74. (8)

The Main Street Connector which will tie North Myrtle Beach to the Carolina Bays Parkway has been petitioned to become I-174.  In October of 2002, highway officials approved $63 million in funds for Horry County, part of which would be used to build the connector. (9)  The connector does face numerous right-of-way issues before any construction can begin.

In April of 2003, the State of North Carolina announced that it would be studying the possibility of extending the Carolina Bays Parkway into North Carolina to US 17 near Grissettown.  The extension would roughly follow Hickman Road, a local two lane highway connecting SC 9 to US 17.  If built, the roadway would be built to Interstate standards and would be a candidate for I-74.  (WRAL-TV Raleigh, NC)  North Carolina's commitment of $185,000 is an addition to the $500,000 already set aside by South Carolina to extend the highway to the state line.  (The Sun News) South Carolina is studying extending SC 31 to the state line. Currently, $8 million in funding is approved for a direct link from SC 31 to Highway 57 which becomes Hickman Road at the border.  (The Sun News)

A February 2005 summit between the two states gave more definition to the Carolina Bays Parkway, but language contained in the agreement has clouded whether or not SC 31 will eventually become part of Interstate 74.  The summit, held in Myrtle Beach, announced a landmark agreement between the two states.  North Carolina agreed on an entry point into South Carolina for I-73; and in turn, South Carolina agreed to build a five mile extension of the Carolina Bays Parkway to the North Carolina line that will connect with their planned routing of Interstate 74. (10)   However, language in the agreement was vague enough that the Parkway would connect to either Interstate 74 or a spur route (Possibly I-174) of the mainline. (11)  The lynch pin to the end result of which route SC 31 will connect to is the controversy between the two states on North Carolina Governor Mike Easley's proposal to extend Interstate 20 from Florence to Wilmington.  The proposal, which is nothing more than the NC Governor's idea as nothing is in law at this time, is currently not a concern of South Carolina's.

In October 2005, North Carolina held its first public meeting on the possible routing of the Northern Extension of the Carolina Bays Parkway in Shallote, NC.  150 residents looked over six different routings and voiced objections to four of them.  The two alternatives that gained the most favor was Alternatives "B", which curves inland around the back of Brunswick Plantation, and "E", which runs between Hickman Road and US 17 and ties into the highway closer to NC 904. (10)  Most of the concern came from residents within the Brunswick Plantation Community. (12)

Parkway Photos
Left Photo: Overhead signs at SC 31 North End at SC Highway 9.  SC 31 is six lanes wide at this point.  (Photo taken by Chris Curley; February 2006).

Right Photo: Guide signs at the end of the Carolina Bays Parkway.  The interchange is a trumpet with SC 9.  If the highway does get extended to North Carolina, this interchange would drastically change.  (Photo taken by Chris Curley; February 2006)

Left Photo: Guide sign for SC 31 as you approach the parkway from SC 9 North.  (Photo taken by Adam Prince; May 26, 2006)

Right Photo: Overhead sign for SC 22 (Conway Bypass) on SC 31 South.  (Photo taken by Doug Kerr; May 27, 2006)

Left Photo: A view of the SC 22/SC 31 stack interchange from SC 31 South.  (Photo taken by Doug Kerr; May 27, 2006). 

Right Photo: SC 31 south approaching the interchange with US 501 South.  (Photo taken by Doug Kerr; May 27, 2006)

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    Sources & Links:

  • SC 31 @ South Carolina Highways Page ---Mike Roberson
  • (1) Wilson, Zane. "Drivers may cruise to S.C. 544." The Sun News. December 15, 2004.
  • (2) Wilson, Zane. "Horry to compete for state bank funds for road work." The Sun News. November 15, 2005.
  • (3) Wilson, Zane. "By the Numbers." The Sun News. January 21, 2006
  • (4) Wilson, Zane. "Odds of garnering road funds increase." The Sun News. December 16, 2005
  • (5) Adcox, Seanna. "Highway funds suddenly twice as big as thought, but still short." The Charlotte Observer. December 18, 2005.
  • (6) Wilson, Zane. "Tax would net S.C. 31 funds." The Sun News. July 1, 2006.
  • (7) "Carolina Bays Parkway stands in the way of housing development." WPDE-TV. March 15, 2007.
  • (8) Wilson, Zane. "Interstate Measure Stalled." The Sun News. April 30, 2004.
  • (9) Wiatrowski, Kevin. "DOT OKs $63 million for RIDE projects." The Sun News. October 16, 2002.
  • (10) Wilson, Zane. "Carolinas Reach Interstate Deal." The Sun News. Fenruary 12, 2005.
  • (11) Vergakis, Brock. "N.C. Plan may only give Spur to S.C." The Sun News. April 2, 2005.
  • (12) Jones, Steve. "Public gets personal in scrutiny of 6 highway routes." The Sun News. October 12, 2005
  • Chris Curley
  • Doug Kerr
  • Barry Camp - SC 31 and I-74 shields

  • Page Created: April 22, 2006
    Last Updated: July 1, 2007

    © 2006-07 Adam Prince
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