Early plans released for SC 31 northern extension as North Carolina waits for funding

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SUNSET BEACH, NC (WBTW) – Engineers from North and South Carolina are sharing several proposals for the estimated $552 million project to extend the Carolina Bays Parkway from Horry County into the Tar Heel State.

This comes less than a month after the southern extension of South Carolina Highway 31 opened. That project lingered on through two years of delays, including after Hurricane Florence.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation says the northern extension of SC 31 will help traffic in the greater North Myrtle Beach area.

“It is going to enhance mobility and connectivity through the area, so that increases safety,” said Leah Quattlebaum, who’s the production engineer for the Pee Dee region of SCDOT.

The DOTs from both Carolinas held their first meeting at the Sea Trail Convention Center on Tuesday. Engineers met with residents to explain nine possible routes for the Carolina Bays Parkway northern extension.

You can click here to find the maps of all nine proposed corridors.

“There’s three main corridors that are extending,” Quattlebaum said. “All of them involve an interchange at South Carolina Highway 111.”

After that, the extended SC 31 would follow parts U.S. Highway 17’s current path in Brunswick County up to the Shallotte Bypyass. That would reduce the cost of acquiring properties and building new roads by upgrading the existing one.

Horry County has its $185 million share of the projected $552 million cost. That comes from tax revenue from the RIDE III program, which includes the SC 31 northern extension.

North Carolina still needs to fund the remaining $367 million. That money would likely have to be allocated to the NCDOT by the state legislature.

That would likely happen through the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

“We just finished one STIP rotation that just was finalized in September of this year, so it’ll be two years before we start the next rotation,” said NCDOT project manager Krista Kimmel.

While some on both sides of the border, like Indigo Farms in Little River, say they’re worried about these proposed routes, the engineers say the research is far from over.

“We don’t want to study something that the public is going to be highly opposed to,” Kimmel said. “We want to have that public input and public backing for what we’re doing.”

A construction date can’t be set until North Carolina secures its portion of the funding. NCDOT says the goal is to have a final environmental and decision document done by spring of 2022.

There will also be another meeting in Little River on Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. at VFW Post 10804 on State Highway 57 North.

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