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What is the Carolina Bays Parkway Expansion Project?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a meeting where Chad Kimes, PE Division Engineer, Division 3 for the NCDOT spoke of current and future projects that the NCDOT has funding for.

Much conversation was about the Carolina Bays Project. This project is not currently funded and routes have not been decided. I will discuss that further in a moment.

If you have traveled between North Carolina and South Carolina on HWY 17 you have seen a lot of road work being done in the southern part of North Carolina in the areas of Thomasboro and Hickman Roads (Calabash area). This road work was being done is called "reduce conflict intersections", which means they are making left turns instead of directly crossing 4 lanes of traffic. This project is nearing the paving stage but has been temporarily suspended. They hope to have resolution and get paving done soon.

Back to the Carolina Bays Project. Even though this project has been discussed for quite some time, there is no funding in line for it at this point and time of this is not set. Here is a little history of the project:

​​​In 2006, NCDOT and SCDOT completed a feasibility study to look at the project area for potential opportunities, impacts and challenges, as well as to get public input and to develop cost estimates.

Conceptual alternative routes were developed as part of the feasibility study, but detailed environmental and engineering investigations were not performed. The project study area has been expanded as part of the current environmental study. Updated conceptual corridors were developed and presented to the public in December 2019. Seven alternative​ have been identified for more detailed study. Interactive maps of the alternatives can be viewed on NCDOT's online engagement platform​.

In 2016, Horry County (South Carolina) passed a capital projects sales tax referendum allocating $125 million for the portion of the project in South Carolina. In North Carolina, $4.1 million has been allocated for planning and design.[i]

Mr. Kimes also stated, at this point, he is unsure how far into Brunswick County that Horry County will come. As of the time of the meeting, NCDOT remains unfunded for the Right of Way and Construction Projects, despite being the lead agency for the completion of the merger.

There are currently 7 different area studies the NCDOT is looking at for this merger. They are studying the areas for the least impact. It is planned to have a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for signature in late 2023/early 2024 and to have public input hearings in early 2024. So, stay tuned for more information.[ii]

It should further be noted that funding is planned for 10 years and at this time and there is currently no funding for this project. Should they receive funding, the earliest the project will start is in 2033, according to Mr. Kimes.

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