The South Carolina Department of Transportation says Highway 278 has one of the highest crash rates in the entire state.
That’s why they’ve chosen the roadway in Bluffton for a new safety project.
“We just have so many people coming through our Town of Bluffton. Although we have 21,000 population currently, we still have 50,000 people coming through our town each and every day,“ said Capt. Joseph Babkiewicz with the Bluffton Police Department.
Highway 278 stretches ten miles through the Town of Bluffton — and so does the traffic.
“We’ve seen an increase in traffic accidents just in the town of Bluffton ourselves,“ Babkiewicz said. “Back in 2017, we had 717 accidents, and this past year, we had over 2100 accidents.“
Accidents involving the death of an 84-year-old man making a left turn and a pregnant school teacher driving straight through a green light are what got the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s (SCDOT) attention.
“It was selected because of a high crash pattern,“ said Brett McCutchan, the safety projects manager for SCDOT. “The 278 corridor is one of the highest crash rates in the state, and so it was on our radar because of that.“
After collaborating with the Town of Bluffton as well as the police and fire departments, SCDOT identified four major problem areas for safety improvements:
- US 278 at Buck Island Road
- US 278 at SC 46 Bluffton Road
- US 278 at Hilton Head National Drive
- US 278 at Salt Marsh Drive / Moss Creek Village
“At Bluffton Road…there was a high crash pattern of right turn and angle type crashes,“ McCutchan said. “Currently, the existing geometry is an accelerated right turn with a merged acceleration lane.
“Based on the crashes, we are removing that and making the right turn lane be controlled by the traffic signal.“
The project will be federally funded under the Highway Safety Improvement Program. You can view the full plan with maps here.
SCDOT hopes to begin construction in winter of 2020, but before work begins, they want input from residents.
There will be a public meeting Thursday, April 4th from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Bluffton Middle school cafeteria.
“I think if we can make improvements and just save one life, I think it’s worth it,“ Babkiewicz said.