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The state will try to improve the intersection of William Hilton Parkway and the entrance to Windmill Harbour -- long called dangerous by residents -- without installing a traffic signal.
A compromise between the DOT, the Town of Hilton Head Island and residents of Windmill Harbour instead will lead to warning signs with flashing beacons on the parkway on both approaches to the gated community, said J. Craig Forrest, state transportation commissioner, in a news release.
The DOT and town staff will determine the placement, design and the color of the housing for flashing beacons, according to the release from Forrest, Beaufort County's representative on the commission.
Also, the left-turn lanes will be improved with additional signs and markings to better channel traffic entering and leaving Windmill Harbour. Signs on the Wilton Graves Bridge approaching Windmill Harbour will be improved to alert drivers to the intersection.
Windmill Harbour residents had sought a traffic signal at the entrance to the community on William Hilton Parkway.. A traffic study, however, indicated a stoplight wasn't warranted, Forrest said. The town also opposed a signal there, fearing it would create a bottleneck for drivers crossing the bridge to the island.
Windmill Harbour homeowner Raymond Wenig called the compromise a short-term solution that was simple, cheap and quick.
"Whether it's the ultimate solution, is hard to say. But it is a good beginning," he said.
But Wenig would still like a traffic signal some day.
"Even with those changes, it is still going to be dangerous at that intersection because you are relying on drivers to recognize and obey those signs," he said.
The town also sees the compromise as a temporary fix. It still plans an alternate, long-term solution to build an access road parallel to William Hilton Parkway. The Windmill Harbour property owners association, however, believes that to be impractical because of the costs, time and permitting required.
Town manager Steve Riley said the access road would make it easier to enter and exit Windmill Harbour and nearby Mariner's Cove, Blue Heron Point and Hilton Head Harbor Marina. The town plans to spend about $200,000 this fiscal year to design the road. Money to build it would come from the State Transportation Improvement Program, administered locally by the Lowcountry Council of Governments.
Barbara Lindblad, president of the Windmill Harbour POA, praised Forrest for bringing the parties together quickly for a compromise.
"We are real happy to get some immediate improvements out there," Lindblad said. "They are short-term safety improvements, and we hope they lead to some positive results. You have quite a bit of chaos there. Traffic is moving very quickly, and left turns are difficult."
The changes are expected to cost less than $100,000 and would be paid from the state DOT's maintenance budget, Forrest said. The improvements would be made sometime between the first of the year and early spring, he said.
"I think it's something that will work well for several years, and we'll address the long-term issue when the time comes," Forrest said.