The Town of Hilton Head Island hopes to prevent collisions along an accident-prone stretch of William Hilton Parkway by closing two median crossings and creating a new intersection.
Construction begins next week to close crossings near the Fresh Market shopping center and the Hargray Communications campus, replacing them with a new intersection and stoplight at William Hilton Parkway and Queens Way.
The project also includes bike and pedestrian crossings and a new road connecting the intersection to a service road serving Fresh Market Shoppes, Hargray and Hilton Head Island Community Church.
A traffic signal could have prevented an average of 4.4 accidents a year since July 2008 along the 1,000-foot stretch, according to town traffic records. Federal Highway Administration policy says a traffic signal should be considered if there are five preventable crashes per year and efforts to reduce their frequency have failed.
"It's not among the top five locations on the island where we have collisions ... but it is well above the norm and has gotten our attention," town traffic engineer Darrin Shoemaker said.
Of particular concern is eliminating the number of drivers making U-turns at the two median crossings, Shoemaker said.
The new intersection will allow eastbound drivers to turn left into Leamington at Queens Way, which is right-in and right-out only. Drivers leaving the neighborhood also will be allowed to turn left onto the parkway, improving traffic safety and emergency vehicles' access to Leamington, Shoemaker said.
Assistant town engineer Jennifer Lyle said temporary signs will be installed near the intersection to inform drivers that Hargray, the church and the grocery store are accessible from the intersection.
Hargray had worried westbound drivers would not know to turn left at the intersection and instead make U-turns at the next opening in the median near the Heritage Library.
"We have been working closely with the town ... and we feel town staff has been able to adequately address our concerns," said Mark Reinhardt, director of administration for Hargray.
Construction could require temporary lane closures at certain stages of the project, Lyle said. Drivers should slow when traveling through the work zone and be mindful of signs and flagmen directing traffic, she said.
The $1 million project is being paid for through town proceeds from a 2 percent sales tax on prepared foods, meals and beverages sold on the island.
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