Hilton Head councilman vows to block 278 flyover project

tbarton@islandpacket.comOctober 26, 2012 

Lee Edwards says he will run for re-election to Hilton Head Town Council.

  • ALTERNATE OPTION

    Hilton Head Island Town Councilman Lee Edwards opposes the flyover and said the state and county should instead pursue a new plan by County Councilman Stu Rodman. Rodman wants to eliminate the eastbound flyover and instead make the extension at grade.

    Read more at reporter Tom Barton's blog at blogs.islandpacket.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

  • WHAT IT COULD COST

    View bids received by Beaufort County on Oct. 4 for the Bluffton Parkway flyover project at http://bit.ly/SmSXOj.

Beaufort County and Hilton Head Island governments support it. Engineers have signed off on it.

Utilities have been relocated and designs completed at a cost of more than $4 million, and about $15 million in state and federal money has been committed to it.

Permits have been awarded, and construction bids are being reviewed by county and state transportation officials. But one Hilton Head town councilman remains adamant about stopping flyover bridges connecting Bluffton Parkway to U.S. 278.

Lee Edwards, running for re-election against three challengers in the Nov. 6 election, says he will try to block construction, even as the county prepares to award a contract for the work, which is expected to begin by the end of this year.

Edwards believes the flyover is unsightly, unnecessary and unwanted.

County officials, however, stand behind the project.

"It's been through multiple levels of public review and approval ... and all engineers, including the town's traffic engineer, say it's a necessary and appropriate project," said Beaufort County Council chairman Weston Newton. "There's no empirical evidence or professional opinion to say this isn't necessary."

Besides, voters have spoken, says Newton. The flyover is the most expensive item on the list of 1-cent sales tax projects approved by voters in countywide referendum in 2006.

"I haven't met anyone who supports this," Edwards counters.

He and five other Town Council members voted March 20 to support the sweeping concrete ramps, but urged the county to keep looking for a less obtrusive solution.

If no better solution can be found, the town wants the county to consider landscaping and a facade to blend the flyover with the character of the island's entrance.

"I supported the project with the caveat the county look at design alternatives, and they said they would not," Edwards said. "That's when I realized Town Council and I made the wrong decision."

He intends to present a resolution to Town Council reversing its support but has not received firm backing from other council members to do so.

"Council reaffirmed the town's support of the project, and (I) have not heard from other council members saying they want" to reverse that, Mayor Drew Laughlin said. "If a majority wants to revisit it, I'll put it back on the agenda. Absent that, it's been acted on and you move on."

Proponents say the project, expected to cost $36.7 million to $43 million, would provide a more efficient hurricane-evacuation route off the island and ease congestion on U.S. 278 in Bluffton.

Related content

  1. County officials: Flyover project shouldn't snarl traffic on U.S. 278: Oct. 13, 2012
  2. Stu Rodman: Better way to connect US 278, parkway: Aug. 31, 2012
  3. Beaufort County reopening bidding for flyover project: Aug. 29, 2012

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