Get ready to slow down, Beaufort.
Construction on the much-discussed, much planned Boundary Street Project could begin at the start of the year, according to a timeline provided by Beaufort County engineer Rob McFee, who is working with the city of Beaufort on the project.
"Once the construction goes to bid, you're going to see that it's really getting done," city manager Scott Dadson said. "We're really doing $26 million worth of work."
The plan is to begin accepting bids in November, prepare for construction in January and finish by June 2015, McFee said.
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The project is part of a master plan approved in 2006 to narrow lanes on Boundary Street, insert medians with plants, and add sidewalks and bike paths.
While Mayor Billy Keyserling said it's exciting to get the project underway and said it would be worth it once finished, he also said construction will create some problems.
"No public construction process I'm aware of doesn't require us all to have a little patience," he said. "No matter what, our daily routines will be interrupted, but I think it will be wonderful in the end."
The Boundary Street Project is being paid for with a $12.6 million federal grant and $13.7 million in local funds. The grant provides $3 million for land acquisition for the parellel road and along Boundary Street. McFee said the right-of-way acquisition is about 40 percent complete and he does not believe it will hold up the project.
The initial slow down for drivers will be caused by the construction itself. The first order of business: realigning the oddly angled intersection of Boundary Street and Robert Smalls Parkway. It will become a 90-degree turn.
The road will run through what is now the Butler Preowned Vehicles dealership, which is being moved to the Beaufort Plaza across the street, officials have said.
Polk Street, which runs parallel to Boundary, will be extended nearly a half mile to meet with a short road to the new intersection.
Construction will move east, from the intersection toward Ribaut Road. Officials have said they'll go as far toward Ribaut as money will allow, although it's possible there won't be enough money to go all the way.
McFee said designs are nearly complete, but Dadson added there are some details that will be worked out during the bid process and through working with contractors.
"It has a series of bids and bid (alternatives) so we and the contractors and the county can make good, solid decisions about what components to use," he said.
Some of the options will be decided based on cost, timing and feasibility, he said.
"If we have to make a decision and there's a piece of the project that just doesn't work or we can do later, then we can do that," he said.
While the bid process is gearing up, the city is starting work on information documents and drawings for the public, which will go on its website, www.cityofbeaufort.org.
Public meetings with business owners and residents will be scheduled after the bid process to provide information about road closures, traffic-pattern changes and other concerns, Dadson said.
Key concerns during construction will include providing clear signs from Boundary to businesses, temporary access points and alternative parking when possible, McFee said.
Construction will be staggered along the route to lessen the impact on businesses in one area, and will be done after business hours and off-season periods as possible, he said.
Contractors will also have incentives to complete work in a timely fashion, as well as disincentives to fall behind, McFee said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.
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