HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) — As the debate over what’s next for the Highway 278 bridges and corridor continues, Beaufort County is stepping up to do another study about traffic in the area.
It’s a study that the Town of Hilton Head and many residents want.
“The Council wants to make sure that their citizenry feels they have been heard and the citizenry believes it has all the best available data in hand,” said State Senator Tom Davis. “And right now a significant portion of Hilton Head populous don’t believe that’s the case.”
It will look at the area from Moss Creek Drive in Bluffton to Gumtree road on Hilton Head Island. A particular focus will be the area from the Cross Island Parkway to Gumtree road, which was not included in SCDOT’s current plan for the corridor.
“I believe it gives us the latest information and the changes with the tolls being taken off and then having the most data, up to date data going into the design process, I think it will make everyone more comfortable moving forward,” said Chris Ophardt, Beaufort County PIO. “It will give us clear traffic implications so if there are some other little minor design changes that we need to do, we can do that.”
The area was studied previously by consulting firm HDR. But many people disregarded that study, which pushed for six lanes not just on the bridge but throughout the corridor, as “not independent” because HDR had worked with the County and SCDOT previously.
“What gaps are remaining in regard to the data you have in hand so that you can make the best possible decisions on behalf of the people,” explains State Senator Tom Davis.
Tom Davis pushed for the County to approve the study despite the cost.
“There is money being spent and there is time being taken but in the context of a project which is $290 million at least and will take five to eight years to build anyway taking a few more months to look at this data pales in comparison.”
The timing could be an issue. The County had wanted to put in their application to the Federal Highway Administration for a FONSI or Finding of No Significant Impact n the environment by the end of May to keep the project on schedule.
If it is not completed by Dec. 31, 2028, the South Carolina Infrastructure Bank of SCTIB could ask the County to reimburse some of its financial assistance on the project. The county is using $120 million in SCTIB funds for the project.
While the study could take six months, Davis says it will “not materially delay things at all”. Ophardt also believes the study will be done in a shorter amount of time. He hopes the County can still file the application by mid-summer. Adding that this “good faith” effort by the County to all critics is important.
“We are listening. We are listening to the critics,” explains Ophardt. “We are listening to our local elected officials. We are listening to the town of Hilton Head.”
Ophardt says the $1 million study will either be paid for out of the County general fund or Impact fees.
Davis says he is not in favor or against a six-lane bridge or any of the other 26 recommendations by the Town. He just wants all the information to be in the public, and both sides come to a mutual agreement that is best for the area.