Let's beautify the flyovers connecting U.S. 278 to Bluffton Parkway by eliminating them.
This can be done by elevating a section of eastbound U.S. 278 so that westbound traffic exits left and passes under the elevated section, connecting U.S. 278 to Bluffton Parkway in both directions at grade.
The advantages: Aesthetics. An elevated landscaped overpass (resembling the U.S. 278 crossing over S.C. 170) would provide panoramic water views. That's far superior to a canyon view between concrete and steel flyovers that will be difficult to beautify. Environmentally friendly. The intrusion into the marsh on the north side of U.S. 278 would be eliminated. Safety. The Fording Island Road Extension would intersect with Bluffton Parkway at grade (rather than going under it), and the dangerous open median at its intersection with U.S. 278 would be closed. Buckingham Landing. Connections to Bluffton Parkway would be added; connections to Hilton Head would be shorter and safer; connection from eastbound 278 would be maintained; and the dangerous connection to westbound 278 eliminated. Taxpayers. Assuming that all the savings accrue to the state Department of Transportation, it would realize savings of perhaps a couple of a million dollars. Long-term maintenance would be less expensive.
The cost tradeoff: Elevating about 1,200 feet of eastbound U.S. 278 (two lanes) and eliminating about 3,600 feet of flyover, which are one lane, but four feet wider than the current two-lane bridges to Hilton Head.
Beaufort County Council approved the project subject to beautifying the flyovers (which is still an open issue) and receiving $15 million from Transportation Department since the project was deemed "shovel ready."
I trust that the department would agree to the improvements because a portion of its $15 million could be re-directed to other state projects.
We have a golden opportunity to beautify and "value engineer" the intersection of U.S. 278 and Bluffton Parkway, and more importantly, ensure that the gateway to Hilton Head is scenic and welcoming.
Stu Rodman of Hilton Head Island represents District 3 on Beaufort County Council.