An artist's rendering of the proposed Bluffton Parkway flyover that would connect to U.S. 278 just before the bridge to Hilton Head Island.(Photo: Special to the Packet)
Beaufort County could be left shorthanded for future road projects after using sales-tax revenue to match a $15 million grant from the S.C. Department of Transportation to build two flyover bridges linking U.S. 278 and Bluffton Parkway near Moss Creek. County administrator Gary Kubic has proposed borrowing and repaying based on a commitment for a future grant from the State Infrastructure Bank. Read more at reporter Tom Barton's blog at blogs.islandpacket.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.
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A Town of Hilton Head Island panel wants special considerations from Beaufort County in exchange for its endorsement of a $31 million project to build two flyover bridges to connect U.S. 278 and Bluffton Parkway near Moss Creek.
The Public Facilities Committee voted unanimously Monday to recommended Town Council support the county's use of sales-tax revenue for the project.
Despite the committee's approval, some members worry the bridges will be an eyesore. They want the county to consider landscaping and a facade that helps the bridge "blend in with the character of the island's scenic gateway."
"It's critical we take that into consideration," committee member and Town Councilman George Williams Jr. said.
The committee also asked that the project coincide with a state Department of Transportation project to improve the intersection of William Hilton Parkway at the entrance to Windmill Harbour, long called dangerous by residents.
The town proposes building an access road to Windmill Harbour parallel to William Hilton Parkway, north of the highway. The frontage road would connect Jenkins Island Road and Blue Heron Point Road, where a second gated entry to the community would be built, town engineer Darrin Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker said the road would eliminate left turns and median crossovers at the Windmill Harbour entrance, making it easier to enter and exit the community, as well as nearby Mariner's Cove, Blue Heron Point, and Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort and Marina.
State transportation officials are reviewing the town's proposal and are expected to decide soon what the project should entail and its construction schedule, DOT program manager Alan Matienzo said. A rough estimate from the town puts the price tag for the project at $3 million. About $1.4 million has been directed to the project through the state Transportation Improvement Plan administered by the Lowcountry Council of Governments.
Windmill Harbour residents had wanted a traffic signal at the entrance to their community, but a traffic study indicated a stoplight wasn't warranted. The town also opposed a signal, fearing it would create a bottleneck for drivers crossing the bridge to the island.
The residents worry the flyovers will make the problem worse by reducing gaps in traffic they rely on to get in and out of the community, Shoemaker said.
"The Windmill Harbour project needs to go hand-in-glove with the flyover project," Williams said.
The flyovers and an extension of Bluffton Parkway would provide a more efficient hurricane-evacuation route off the island, county officials have said. The project also creates an alternate route for emergency vehicles responding to and from Hilton Head and would ease congestion on U.S. 278 in Bluffton, diverting as much as 30 percent of traffic off the highway there, Shoemaker said.
The proposal goes to the full Town Council on March 20 for its recommendation.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead
- Hilton Head council mulling support for flyover bridges: March 7, 2012
- Town to weigh in on bridge flyovers to Hilton Head: March 6, 2012
- State funding for flyover bridges available, pending county approval: Feb. 27, 2012
- Funding sought for Bluffton Parkway, SC 170: Jan. 20, 2012
- Town committee list of projects for 2013 include Coligny, Windmill Harbour: Oct. 13, 2011