Removing legal blocks to access road overdue

info@islandpacket.comOctober 17, 2013 

STAFF GRAPHIC

Safe access to U.S. 278 for people coming to and from St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church and its school has been up in the air for far too long.

A frontage road to connect the church's parking lot to the Berkeley Hall entrance and the traffic light at Buckwalter Parkway is years overdue. News that a legal settlement might be coming that would allow its construction to move ahead is very welcome.

Beaufort County also plans to extend the frontage road in the other direction from the church to the light at the Bluffton Township Fire Station.

Getting the frontage road built has been delayed by legal action from Berkeley Hall residents, who object to a road linking to that community's entrance. But when Berkeley Hall developers got the zoning they needed to build the gated community in 1999, they agreed to provide vehicle and pedestrian access to St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church. Beaufort County was right to hold the community to that pledge.

Beaufort County attorney Josh Gruber says the county has been negotiating a settlement to the litigation for several months. As soon as it is reached, the county can open the project for bids and hire a firm to build the frontage road.

For St. Gregory's 8,400 parishioners and 210 students this is very good news. For years, drivers used a median cut on U.S. 278 at the church's entrance to get off and onto the busy highway, but traffic engineers have said it's not safe. During particularly busy times at the church, Beaufort County deputies have had to direct traffic.

The state Department of Transportation agreed to keep the median open until the frontage road was built, even through the construction to widen U.S. 278 to six lanes from Simmonsville Road to S.C. 170. That was the case until recently, when construction and lane shifts required closing it.

For now, many drivers going to and from the church must make a U-turn at the Rose Hill Plantation or Buckwalter Parkway traffic lights or at median cuts at Pinckney Colony Road and Eagle's Pointe.

Turning around at the traffic lights is the safer option, but the best option is to get the frontage road built.

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