Funding sought for Bluffton Parkway and S.C. 170

achristnovich@islandpacket.comJanuary 30, 2012 

Funding for two major Beaufort County road projects is in limbo until money promised by the state comes in, county officials say.

One project -- flyover bridges connecting Bluffton Parkway to U.S. 278 -- would cost $34 million.

The other -- a two-phase widening of S.C. 170 from S.C. 46 to U.S. 278. -- would cost $25 million.

The county awaits word on whether $25 million from a previously approved $86 million grant from the State Infrastructure Bank will be provided soon to pay for the S.C. 170 widening.

Although the grant was approved in 2008, the infrastructure bank didn't have enough money to disperse it then, according to Beaufort County Council Chairman Weston Newton. He said he asked the bank for the smaller portion in December and expects a response by the end of February. The county has yet to see any of the grant.

Once funding for the S.C. 170 widening is nailed down, the county can shift its focus to money for the flyovers. The S.C. Department of Transportation could provide $15 million, but that money would require a local match, county engineer Rob McFee said.

If money from the infrastructure bank doesn't come soon, Newton said, county staff would re-examine when and how the flyovers should be built and make a recommendation to County Council. Work probably would be paid for through impact fees, the county's 1 percent sales-tax program and a combination of funds from the Town of Hilton Head Island, the town of Bluffton and, perhaps, federal grants, he said.

Newton said it is a matter of when -- not if -- the projects are funded.

"Some people have said the flyover bridges aren't necessary," Newton said. "I haven't seen anything as far as a change in circumstances that says they aren't necessary."

The 1 percent sales tax, approved in a countywide referendum in 2006, was meant to provide about $152 million for $400 million worth of road projects. Another $100 million was to come from impact fees, which are collected on new-home construction. But because money from impact fees has dropped during the economic downturn, the county has had to adjust its priorities, McFee said.

Impact fees have funded several road projects, including the new bridge between Port Royal and Lady's Island, the current widening of U.S. 278 and work going on now to extend the Bluffton Parkway to Buckingham Plantation.

Follow Anne Christnovich on Twitter at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

Related Content:

Bluffton, property owner disagree over easement to widen S.C. 170, Jan. 27, 2011

Bluffton Parkway gets green light while other road projects fail, Aug. 15, 2010

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