Revised Bluffton Parkway plan draws opposition

cconley@islandpacket.comFebruary 21, 2013 

A revised plan for realigning part of the Bluffton Parkway was unveiled Thursday to lackluster reviews.

Many of the 50 or so people attending a forum at Bluffton High School said they want the road left as is.

"Why do this?" said Al Hanzalik, who lives in Old Carolina. "What is the gain?"

His neighbor, Paul Carmichael, said the parkway's existing dog-leg segment might not be perfect, but it's fine the way it is.

"You have a roadway that works," Carmichael said. "It works."

The current plan for realigning the parkway, endorsed by County Council, calls for a 2.5-mile-road from Bluffton Parkway to Buckwalter Parkway, passing between the Old Carolina and Rose Hill developments. The straighter road would replace the existing segment that requires drivers to make two turns, one hard right and the other hard left.

The revised design is similar to the existing plan except at the intersection of Bluffton and Buckwalter parkways, where it would shift a few hundred feet to the north.

Bluffton officials favor the revised design, which they say leaves more space around the intersection for development.

"This will end up being a prime intersection for the town," Councilman Mike Raymond said.

Town manager Anthony Barrett, who with Raymond and other town councilmen spent nearly 90 minutes discussing the plan with residents, said he understands there are concerns about the project. But he says the town is trying to think long term.

"We have to plan for the future. ... We're not just looking at the next two or three years," he said.

County voters approved realigning the parkway as part of the 1 percent transportation sales tax approved in 2006. The project is one of the last of those voters approved that is not under way.

That probably won't change anytime soon. The project currently is unfunded, although county administrator Gary Kubic is optimistic the state will ultimately help pay for it.

The 1 percent increase in the sales tax, which expired in October, raised $152 million for road work in the county, but other local funding sources, such as impact fees, fell far short of expectations over the past five years as the economy stalled.

Even if the money materialized tomorrow, the county would have to acquire land for the road and seek necessary permits and approvals before beginning construction. Before any of that can happen, County Council must decide whether to adopt the revised design or stick with the plan it endorsed nearly five years ago.

"Council will make the final determination as to whether we want to go with the original one or go with the second one," Kubic said.

It's not clear when the council will take up the issue.

Many at the Bluffton meeting were in no hurry to see the project advance.

DaWayne Penberthy of Old Carolina criticized the handling of the existing parkway segments and isn't confident this project will be any different.

"I'd rather it not be built," he said.

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