Flyover no longer seen as a certainty

cconley@ilsandpacket.comNovember 3, 2012 

Facing higher-than-expected construction costs, Beaufort County officials are crunching numbers to see if they can afford to build a flyover connecting the Bluffton Parkway to U.S 278.

Six firms bids on the project, which would be near the bridge to Hilton Head Island.

R.R. Dawson Bridge Co. has been certified by state and federal highway agencies as the low bidder. The Lexington, Ky., company offered to handle the project for $36.7 million, almost 7 percent more than the county's most recent estimates of $34.5 million.

"It is up to Beaufort County to review its options from a financial standpoint and determine whether we have the wherewithal to enter into a contract with this company," Rob McFee, the county's director of engineering, said Friday.

McFee declined to say whether the higher price tag could delay or kill the project, to be funded by impact fees, revenue from a 1-percent sales tax and $15 million in state and federal money.

Questions about whether the project can move forward hinge on one issue: "It's about money now," county administrator Gary Kubic said.

Aesthetic elements could be the first to go.

Proposals include dying the concrete "substructure," adding accent lights, molding the cement into pleasing designs or adding landscaping around the flyover and ramps. Lighting is the cheapest option at about $40,000, while the dyed concrete would cost about $300,000, McFee said.

All of those options would cost $700,000. That cost is not included in the $36.7-million price tag so eliminating them wouldn't bring down the overall cost of the project.

Kubic said no decisions about those elements have been made.

"All we are trying to do is estimate potential maximum costs and work backwards on affordability," he said.

The project would start at Bluffton Parkway's intersection with Buckingham Plantation Drive and extend over the marsh between The Gatherings and Buckingham Landing. Ramps would connect eastbound and westbound lanes of U.S. 278 to the Bluffton Parkway.

The current design has its share of opponents, including Hilton Head Town Councilman Lee Edwards, who has vowed to block the project. Others, including County Councilman Stu Rodman, support a "fly-under" concept, which would funnel traffic under U.S. 278 rather than over it.

County Council will have the final say on whether to build the flyover. McFee said a decision is likely within 30 days.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

Related content:

Hilton Head councilman vows to block 278 flyover project, Oct. 26, 2012

Beaufort County reopening bidding for flyover project, Aug. 29, 2012

http://www.lowcountrynewspapers.net/archive/2012/08/09/story/contract-is... " target="_blank">Contract issues delay flyover construction start near Hilton Head, Aug. 9, 2012

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