Hilton Head Island Town Council plans to weigh in later this month on a proposed $34-million project to build two flyover bridges connecting U.S. 278 and Bluffton Parkway near Moss Creek.
Council heard a project presentation Tuesday. The project would be built with state funding, sales tax and other revenue.
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 source for the remaining $4 million has not been determined. Island Mayor Drew Laughlin said the county has not asked Hilton Head to contribute and said there have been no discussions between the two on that topic.
Permits have already been issued and the project meets state and federal requirements, town transportation and traffic engineer Darrin Shoemaker said.
The flyovers are the most expensive item on the list of 1-cent sales tax projects approved by voters in countywide referendum in 2006. The flyovers and an extension of Bluffton Parkway are part of plans to create a more efficient hurricane-evacuation route off the island, county officials have said.
The flyovers would also provide an alternate route for emergency vehicles responding to and from Hilton Head, as well to drivers who want to avoid accidents that snarl traffic between Moss Creek and the island, Shoemaker said.
The project would ease congestion on U.S. 278 in Bluffton, diverting as much as 30 percent of traffic off the highway there, according to a%10 report presented to Beaufort County Council in October.
On the flip side, the flyovers could be seen as being "too urban" or detrimental to the character of the island's scenic gateway, Shoemaker said.
It's a worry Laughlin shares.
"I'm a bit ambivalent," Laughlin said after the meeting. "I see the benefits, but I worry about (the bridges harming) the aesthetics (of the island's gateway)."
Council's Public Facilities Committee will discuss the project before bringing a recommendation before the full council at its March 20 meeting, Laughlin said.
The Beaufort Transportation Authority Group is expected to meet in late March and offer a recommendation to county cuncil by early April. A specific date has not been set.
Follow staff writer Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.