Bluffton residents off Hampton Parkway lament lane closing

achristnovich@islandpacket.comFebruary 17, 2012 

Eastbound traffic on U.S. 278 roars past the former median cut for Hampton Parkway on Wednesday. The crossover has been closed due to construction on the 278 widening project, upsetting people who live down Hampton Parkway because they now have to take a detour to get out on westbound 278.

JAY KARR, THE ISLAND PACKET

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Some motorists who live off Hampton Parkway in the Bluffton area worry their drive home on U.S. 278 will soon be unsafe.

That's because an eastbound deceleration lane will be absorbed as U.S. 278 is widened. That lane, residents say, is needed for safe right turns onto the parkway, which is just east of the S.C. 170-U.S. 278 intersection.

The residents, who live in the Hampton Lake, Baynard Park and Parkside neighborhoods, asked the County Council on Monday to help keep the eastbound deceleration lane.

However, county officials say the decision is beyond their control because the U.S. 278 widening is overseen by the S.C. Department of Transportation.

The DOT has said there's not enough traffic in the area to justify keeping the deceleration lane. Residents want a new traffic study.

Gary Rowe, a partner in a former development group involved in building the Hampton Parkway, wrote a letter to DOT in November asking that it keep the deceleration lane open. The DOT responded Jan. 24 that a deceleration lane would be allowed, but the DOT would not pay for it. The agency would provide only a cost estimate for that lane, the letter said.

"The need for this right turn was considered early in the design phase," the DOT letters says, "and the Department determined that it is not warranted based on the current traffic counts and number of vehicles making the right turn during the peak hour."

Attempts to reach U.S. 278 project manager Brent Rewis were unsuccessful, but DOT Commissioner Craig Forrest of Bluffton said the letter to Rowe is the agency's official statement.

The lane closing is not the only irritant for the residents caused by the widening. On Monday, a median cut that had allowed left turns onto the parkway for westbound drivers on U.S. 278 was closed. Now some residents say they face detours of as long as four miles to get home.

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

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