County dropping speed limit -- not adding stoplight -- at Pinecrest

cconley@islandpacket.comOctober 22, 2012 

  • Okatie land purchase

    Beaufort County Council approved a $1.5 million purchase of about 98 acres of woods along an impaired section of the Okatie River near the Oldfield development. Funding came from the Rural and Critical Lands preservation program, which has about $3.8 million left from previous bond measures.

Beaufort County is reducing the speed limit on Bluffton Parkway from 45 to 35 mph on a half-mile stretch around Pinecrest, officials announced Monday.

The announcement, however, did little to mollify Pinecrest residents who have been arguing since April for a new traffic light to improve safety at the intersection.

The plan, designed to ease traffic and safety concerns where the four-lane parkway meets Crossings Boulevard and Masters Way, also will prohibit left turns from the subdivision during peak traffic hours, said county transportation and safety engineer Colin Kinton.

Signal supporters decried the proposal Monday as a half-measure unlikely to solve the problem. Others at Monday's council meeting at the Bluffton library suggested it would make the situation worse.

"You are just going to create more havoc," said Deborah Ferreira-Freidenfeld, who predicted more U-turns during the busiest times of the day if left turns are regulated. "There are already too many U-turns in Beaufort County."

"I had no idea I would have to be Mario Andretti just to get out of my street," added Ferreira-Freidenfeld, who recently moved to Bluffton from Boston.

County transportation staff studied the intersection this fall and determined it did not meet federal standards for a traffic light. Installing a light would have only prevented two of the four accidents reported at the intersection since 2009, Kinton said.

The current plan, which should be implemented within a few weeks, will reduce the speed limit from where Bluffton Parkway splits with Buckwalter Parkway to just east of Pinecrest. Reducing traffic speeds, Kinton argued, should give drivers more time to leave the neighborhood and hopefully reduce close calls.

Not everyone is buying it, including Sheriff P.J. Tanner.

Tanner told council he could station more officers in the area and write more tickets after the speed limit drops. But he called the intersection "challenged" and said reducing the speed limit would lead to more complaints.

In the long run, working with the town of Bluffton to install a light is the county's best option, Tanner said.

"At the end of the day, the only answer to make that a safe intersection ... is if that is a lighted intersection," said Tanner, whose comments drew applause.

Installing a traffic light would cost about $90,000, county officials have said.

Pinecrest resident Phyllis Lambert has been asking county and Bluffton officials to install a light since April. She has gathered more than 100 signatures and rallied about 35 people to attend Monday's meeting.

"With all due respect to the engineering department (it doesn't go far enough)," she said afterward. "So that's what they are going to do to appease us, and the only thing that would make it work is if a Bluffton police car is sitting on the median."

She said she plans to keep pushing county officials to review the intersection and reconsider their decision.

Related content

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service