Busted side mirrors and sideswiped vehicles on the skinny four lanes that lead into Folly Beach have prompted the city to pursue a redesign of Center Street.
“Right now in my truck and most people’s cars I can’t get by without hitting something,” said Mayor Tim Goodwin.
Currently, four 9-foot-wide travel lanes — two in each direction — are squeezed between 8-foot-wide lanes for parking on both sides of the street. The solution under consideration is three 12-foot-wide lanes with the middle lane for left turns.
Most of the left-turn traffic coming onto the island is for people who want to visit The Pantry before heading to the beach, Goodwin said.
“The turning lane would hopefully make the traffic move faster,” he said.
Another factor spurring redesign of the street is its connection with the new $32 million bridges coming into town. The spans over Folly Creek and the Folly River have one travel lane in each direction so changing Center Street to be the same will create a more uniform look, he said.
Before work can begin on the project, the city must complete a study for the state Department of Transportation that shows the changes won’t hurt traffic flow, he said.
The new design for Center Street could be in place by next summer, Goodwin said.
City Council selected a consultant, Stantec, to do an $11,000 engineering study of the proposed road redesign. The total project cost is expected to be between $200,000 and $300,000.
The new Center Street design will improve pedestrian and bicycle safety because the left turn lane will give those crossing the road a place to wait in the middle of street before continuing across the next lane, said Councilman D.J. Rich.
“It’s not going to make traffic any worse. It will improve it a little bit,” he said.
Redesigning the street lanes is not just a matter of putting down new stripes. Nearly two inches of asphalt blacktop must be torn-up and repaved, Rich said.
Paul Chrysostom, owner of Mr. John’s Beach Shop on Center Street, said the proposed improvements could make a difference. “It might make things flow a little better,” he said.
The project will address other issues on Center Street such as stretches of bare dirt between the sidewalk and the curb. The city is selling bricks that can be personalized with an engraved name or message to install in that area so it will look better, Goodwin said.
People walking on the sidewalk may accidentally step into a bare spot and twist an ankle, he said.
Engraved bricks will also be offered for sale to place in the landscaped road median between the Sand Dollar and Rita’s, Rich said.
A brick measuring 4-inches by 8-inches is $75. An 8-inch by 8-inch brick is $150.
“We have had awesome response,” Rich said.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711