Bus agency floats plan for Myrtle Beach airport station

March 26, 2009


Mar. 26--CONWAY -- The Coast RTA board members are considering building a multimodal station near the Myrtle Beach International Airport, following a presentation by the firm managing the road and terminal projects for the airport Wednesday.

The three-story station, with clearance on the first floor high enough to accommodate buses, would include airport parking on the second and third levels, said Rick Ott, senior executive vice president with M.B. Kahn Construction Co. The proposed location of the station is on acreage owned by the county near the planned intersection of Harrelson Boulevard and U.S. 17 Bypass.

"The first step is to see if this is best for all parties involved," Ott said of getting support from The Coast's board, the County Council and the city. "There are 180 acres that the airport currently owns around that area, and some of it was used as a construction debris site. ... I could only use this for some sort of parking area."

Ott, as well as several area leaders, including Myers Rollins, general manager of The Coast RTA, took a trip to Harrisburg, Pa., recently to examine their multimodal station, a central hub for bus, taxi, limousine, rental car and hotel shuttle services that also houses a parking garage on the second and third floor. Preliminary costs were not available.

Ott said the idea is in the exploratory phase. If approved by the Coast RTA board, the city and the County Council, then The Coast RTA would be able to tap into some of the 1.7 million passengers who go through Myrtle Beach International Airport annually.

From there, the plans would have to abide by both Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Transit Administration guidelines and would call for a feasibility study, an environmental assessment, find available funding and adhere to the city's permit and code procedure. Ott said if the process moves quickly enough, it may be eligible for federal stimulus money.

Lauren Morris, marketing manager for the Horry County Department of Airports, said members of the airport's expansion team made the trip to Harrisburg as well.

"It's something that we've been looking at," she said. "We're exploring all of the options at this point. It could be a really big benefit for Coast RTA and the airport."

The building would allow for office space, including about 20,000 square feet for The Coast RTA's administrative office, room for 10 to 12 buses during peak travel season with between eight and 10 service bays and a maintenance area.

Rollins said the proposal meets the organization's short-range goals to expand the agency's operations and move from Conway to a spot east of the Intracoastal Waterway, where 75 percent of its services are provided.

"This is very preliminary," he said. "Nothing has been committed formally."

Rollins said he has inquired about two grants already to partially fund the project.

"This is a wonderful idea," said RTA board member Gloria Deal Showers of the station.

Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0364.