Medians remain concern for business owners, residents as Boundary Street plan moves forward

emoody@beaufortgazette.comNovember 15, 2012 

Bill Smoak, owner of the Xpress Lane convenience store on Boundary Street, listens as Craig Lewis of Beaufort's Office of Civic Investment gives an update on the Boundary Street redevelopment project Thursday evening at City Hall.

SARAH WELLIVER, STAFF PHOTO

Shovels could hit the dirt as early as June for Beaufort's Boundary Street redevelopment project, but some residents and business owners continue to voice concerns about the plans.

Most of the comments and questions during an information session Thursday night at City Hall centered around the medians that will separate Boundary from Robert Smalls Parkway and Ribaut Road.

The project is a partnership among the city, Beaufort County, the S.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. It will realign the Boundary and Robert Smalls intersection, narrowing Boundary and adding medians, bike paths, and a more pedestrian-friendly sidewalk. A parallel road will run on the north side of Boundary.

"Beaufort is the only dog-gone place I know of that is trying to narrow streets, when everyone else I know of is trying to widen them," said Ed Allen, Beaufort County's coroner who spoke on behalf of Sixteen Gate Cemetery on Boundary.

He is concerned limited median openings will not only be inconvenient for funeral processions, but will restrict emergency vehicle access to the area.

Craig Reaves, owner of Sea Eagle Market at 2242 Boundary St., said most of the accidents he sees are vehicles rear-ended while making a right turn. He believes the medians will hurt businesses. Tractor-trailers will have less maneuverability and customers may not want to have to make U-turns to get to a business.

"I can tell you I've listened to everything you have to say, and I don't buy everything your selling," he said.

Craig Lewis of the Office of Civic Investment said studies show medians not only help slow traffic but gets rid of the "suicide" lane in the middle of the road where pedestrians are at risk. In most cases, he said, businesses that close because of or after median installation were already at-risk.

According to information from the Federal Highway Administration, Lewis said, medians:

  • Reduce pedestrian accidents by more than 40 percent

  • Reduce motor vehicle accidents by more than 15 percent

  • Decrease traffic delays by more than 30 percent

  • Increase road capacity by more than 30 percent

  • "Medians help to discipline traffic through the area," Lewis said. "Some people may not believe it, but do your research."

    Lewis said the project, approved in 2006, has been in the works since at least 1999, and the medians are not a new issue.

    The project will be paid for with a $12.6 million federal grant and $13.7 million in local matching funds, most from a penny sales tax.

    Work will probably begin near the intersection of Robert Smalls and Boundary and continue east to Ribaut, Lewis said. Construction plans are being updated with an eye on disrupting businesses and traffic as little as possible. Public information workshops will be held quarterly, with the next one in either January or February.

    "It's a very exciting project and it's a very complex project," Lewis said. "There are a lot of moving parts, including dirt, and we want to try to make sure we get as much information out as quickly as possible."

    Bidding is set to begin in April, with construction from June to January 2015, according to the presentation.

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