County committee backs Bluffton's version of parkway realignment

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comAugust 25, 2013 


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    Beaufort County Council today is scheduled to discuss adjustments to the design to straighten the Bluffton Parkway at its intersection with the Buckwalter Parkway. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. at the Bluffton library.

The road to straightening out the Bluffton Parkway could become a little clearer today.

Beaufort County Council is expected to decide whether to endorse a realignment of the parkway that has been pushed by the town of Bluffton as a way to bring more traffic to an area targeted for economic development.

On Tuesday, the county's Public Facilities Committee voted 5-2 to recommend that County Council pick Bluffton's proposed route as its preferred design.

The county had approved a different route for straightening that section of the parkway -- 2.5 miles from Buck Island Road to Buckwalter Parkway to eliminate a "dogleg" around the Pinecrest neighborhood.

The town wants to move the proposed intersection of the Bluffton Parkway and Buckwalter Parkway about 350 feet north of the county's planned route. The town and landowner John Reed say their proposal would allow for development of surrounding land, boosting the tax base.

The intersection is part of the estimated $25 million parkway project. Although voters approved the project in 2006 as part of a 1 percent sales tax for transportation, the county has no money to build it. It's not clear if or when funding will materialize.

Lawyers for the town and county have been trying to determine which will be responsible for connector roads and rights of way. Those talks kept a proposal from coming forward until Tuesday.

Questions and concerns remain, however.

County Councilwoman Cynthia Bensch, who represents part of Bluffton, is concerned that relocating the intersection of the parkways would make it unsafe for drivers entering and leaving The Townes at Buckwalter.

Eliminating the current traffic light -- or even removing the median cut -- would make getting in and out of the neighborhood dangerous, Bensch said.

"These are things you talk about now, not five years from now," Bensch said.

County Council could debate those and other concerns about the road today, but the proposed resolution is simply to declare a preferred design, according to Beaufort County attorney Josh Gruber.

If the county approves the new route, the Bluffton Town Council would review the matter Sept. 10, town manager Anthony Barrett said.

"This is a future project (that) is currently not funded," Barrett wrote in an email. "Citizens should remember that this alignment, if approved Monday evening and subsequently endorsed by the mayor and council, is not an immediate project and will not begin the next day."

The next step would be trying to finance the project, Gruber said, "and that is, by no means, a small issue."

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at

Related content:

Map: Bluffton Parkway realignment conflict

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