Bensch calls for streetlights along U.S. 278 in Bluffton

cconley@islandpacket.comApril 17, 2013 

Cynthia Bensch

STAFF PHOTO

A Beaufort County councilwoman from greater Bluffton wants streetlights installed on unlit sections of U.S. 278 from McGarvey's Corner to Rose Hill Plantation.

Cynthia Bensch said illuminating the stretch of about 2.5 miles would improve safety and make it easier for tourists to find their way around. It also could enhance an area many consider the gateway to Hilton Head Island, she said.

"Since my campaign, I have been trying to address issues so many residents have in Bluffton about how dark it is and unsafe," she said Wednesday, adding that deer routinely cross the road at night.

After speaking with Palmetto Electric Cooperative, county engineering director Rob McFee on Monday told a County Council subcommittee the installation and design could cost up to $2 million. Annual costs thereafter could reach $500,000.

"Of course, these numbers are very preliminary," he said. "Palmetto Electric Cooperative would certainly have to get deeply involved in the development of the illumination."

Bensch disputed those numbers, saying that until there is a formal plan in place there is no way to calculate the actual cost. She also said donations from neighborhoods and businesses along the road might ease the financial burden on the county.

Funding for the lighting is not currently in the county's long-term capital improvement plan, McFee said.

Parts of U.S. 278 near some major intersections have streetlights, but most of the route is unlit.

"There is no lighting there today," Councilman Jerry Stewart said Monday. "Why are we considering lighting now?"

Council took no action on the proposal this week, although it's expected to come before the newly formed Southern Beaufort County Corridor Beautification Board soon.

"I hope it won't take a while. It shouldn't take a while. It's the gateway to Hilton Head, and it should have been done years ago," Bensch said. "I just don't want it to die on the vine."

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