County studying need for Bluffton Parkway traffic signal

cconley@islandpacket.comSeptember 26, 2012 

Amid continued pressure from Pinecrest residents, Beaufort County has launched a traffic study at an intersection of Bluffton Parkway to determine whether a stoplight is needed.

But because the two intersecting roads -- Masters Way and Crossings Boulevard -- are private, county officials say the neighborhood would likely need to help pay for a light if one is installed.

"It's not that we can't put in a signal, it's just that typically with private roads, the private developer pays for their own traffic signals if a signal is warranted," Colin Kinton, the county's traffic engineer, said Wednesday.

Based on a similar signal project near Parker's convenience store on Buckwalter Parkway that was largely paid for by the store's parent company, a new traffic light would cost about $88,000, Kinton said.

Pinecrest resident Phyllis Lambert has been pushing for the traffic light since April, arguing that the parkway is dangerous to cross during morning and evening commutes. She and allies in Pinecrest have gathered more than 100 signatures and are becoming regulars at County Council and Bluffton Town Council meetings.

"The visibility is poor due to the hill, and cars come flying over at high speeds that do not allow them to stop safely," Tami Williams of Crossings Boulevard wrote in a letter to the county. "I am terrified every time I have to pull out of this neighborhood and go somewhere."

The residents are especially concerned about school buses, teenage drivers and pedestrians that cross the intersection to and from Bluffton High, Bluffton Elementary and H.E. McCracken Middle schools each day.

Although the county's traffic study isn't finished, Kinton said traffic and accident levels at the intersection don't appear excessive.

"If there was an existing accident problem to warrant a signal, you would expect a higher rate of crashes," he said, noting that four accidents have been reported at the intersection since 2009.

Bluffton police on Wednesday confirmed the county's data, noting that only two accidents occurred within the intersection itself.

Although the study may not warrant a traffic signal, that doesn't mean the county won't pursue other steps to improve pedestrian and vehicle safety, Kinton said. For instance, he said, the county is urging the school board to change bus routes so they no longer pass through the intersection.

Attempts Wednesday to reach school district officials for comment were unsuccessful.

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