A Hilton Head Island town panel wants special considerations from Beaufort County in exchange for endorsing a $31 million project to build two flyover bridges connecting U.S. 278 and Bluffton Parkway near Moss Creek.
The town’s Public Facilities Committee recommended Monday that Town Council support the county’s use of sales-tax revenue to pay for the project.
The S.C. Department of Transportation recently announced it will provide a $15 million grant. Beaufort County would be required to match that amount.
The flyovers are the most expensive item on the list of 1-cent sales tax projects approved by voters in countywide referendum in 2006.
So far, the county’s spent about $3.7 million on the project to relocate utilities, design services, environmental assessment and permitting.
That would leave the county on the hook for about $12.3 million. The county could pay for that with uncommitted sales-tax revenue. Doing so, though, would leave it short-handed when it comes time to pay for the final phase of the Bluffton Parkway extension and other planned projects, county administrator Gary Kubic said.
The last phase would extend Bluffton Parkway from Buck Island Road to Buckwalter Parkway. The county is currently extending Bluffton Parkway from Burnt Church Road to Buckingham Plantation Drive. Construction is expected to be completed in July.
The flyover bridges would be the next project.
Instead, Kubic and other county officials propose partnering with the State Infrastructure Bank to “float a bond” to pay for the projects.
The county would use its uncommitted sales tax dollars to pay principle and interest on the bond until 2017, then a new grant would be available from the bank to pay the rest, Kubic said.
The town committee supported the proposal.
The following is a list of pros and cons of the project presented to the committee by town traffic and transportation engineer Darrin Shoemaker:
* Diverts as much as 30 percent of the traffic from U.S. 278 to Bluffton Parkway on mainland
* Improves flow of traffic during evacuation, providing a secondary route once off the Karl S. Bowers Bridge
* Provides an alternate route for emergency vehicles going to and from the island, as well as for motorists to avoid accidents that snarl traffic between Moss Creek and the island
* The project has already been permitted and meets state and federal requirements
* Not pursuing the project would diminish the usefulness and investment of previous projects extending Bluffton Parkway to Moss Creek
* Would not require a tax increase
* Could increase the urgency/focus by S.C. DOT to widen/replace the existing bridges to the island (the flyover would fit into a future bridge widening project, though a portion may need to be “de-constructed and redesigned”)
* The flyovers could be seen as “too urban” or detrimental to the character of the island’s gateway corridor
* Although permitted, would be building another bridge over the marsh
* Could exacerbate periodic bottlenecks on the mainland — goes from six lanes to four lanes on the bridges — by shoehorning more lanes into the bridge (would go from four lanes to two lanes from Bluffton Parkway to flyover).
* Could reduce gaps in traffic Windmill Harbour residents rely on to get in and out of the gated community at its entrance off William Hilton Parkway near the J. Wilton Graves Bridge
* Requires Hilton Head Public Service District to relocate a water line
Hilton Head Island town staff report on Bluffton Parkway flyover extension to U.S. 278