The S.C. Department of Transportation is reviewing plans to improve the intersection of U.S. 278 and the entrance to Windmill Harbour, according to the Beaufort County administrator.
If the plan gets the department's approval, some of the work to replace dangerous left turns onto westbound U.S. 278 with additional right turns could go out to bid this spring, Gary Kubic said.
The plan -- which has been endorsed by the councils and engineering departments of both Beaufort County and the Town of Hilton Head Island -- would improve safety along a dangerous portion of the highway, according to Ernie Lindblad, president of the Windmill Harbour Property Owners Association.
"First of all, this is all about safety," Lindblad said. "Second of all, this is really a no-brainer. It's just a very smart, sensible thing to do."
Because the highway is state-controlled and maintained, the project needs DOT approval, but the county and Windmill Harbour have already done much of the heavy lifting, Kubic said.
Funding for the $1.4 million project is already available from the Lowcountry Council of Governments, Kubic said. In addition, county traffic engineer Colin Kinton has reviewed the plans and made recommendations, reducing the back-and-forth between state and county engineers that is typical during DOT reviews, Kubic added.
"We sent hopefully a complete package," Kubic said. "(DOT is) familiar with what we've been doing now for about a year. I don't think it will require too much review."
The proposal eliminates dangerous crossings for drivers trying to leave Windmill Harbour and get onto westbound U.S. 278, Kinton has said.
Currently, there are three median crossovers on the mile-long stretch of U.S. 278 on Jenkins Island: at Blue Heron Point Road, the westernmost intersection; Crosstree Drive, the entrance to Windmill Harbour; and Jenkins Island Road. Drivers can make left turns onto U.S. 278 west at Blue Heron Point and Crosstree.
The plan is to close the Blue Heron Point crossover and eliminate the left turn onto westbound U.S. 278 at the Crosstree intersection, according to Kinton. The left turn from U.S. 278 west to Crosstree Drive would remain open, he added.
Instead of the existing left turns, a new section of Blue Heron Point Road would connect to westbound U.S. 278 on the north side of the highway, at the base of the J. Wilton Graves Bridge, Kinton has said.
Members of the Beaufort County Legislative Delegation intend to submit letters supporting the idea, said Rep. Weston Newton, whose district includes Jenkins Island.
With so much local support, Kubic and Lindblad said they hope the DOT gives the project the green light soon.
"With the (Bluffton Parkway) flyover coming in the fall of 2015 ... it's even more important that this get done," Lindblad said.
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.