Drivers heading off island into the rush-hour bottleneck that is William Hilton Parkway got a bit good news Wednesday.
The town of Hilton Head Island is poised to acquire a key piece of property, and if the Planning Commission has its way, the land will be used to widen the parkway.
The town hopes to close this spring on 5.79 acres of heirs property in the Stoney Community between the parkway, Squire Pope Road and the marshes of Jarvis Creek.
The $4 million purchase from the Matthew and Teena Jones Family LLC better positions the town to build an acceleration lane from Squire Pope Road and widen the parkway, town traffic engineer Darrin Shoemaker said.
"It's a bottleneck," Commissioner David Bennett said, describing rush-hour traffic trying to get through the intersection.
In 2008, the town used money from a county-wide 1-percent sales tax to build a third eastbound lane on the parkway. The town also extended a third lane from Old Wild Horse Road to Squire Pope Road.
But plans to extend the lane west of the intersection as a corresponding "off-island" lane were scrapped after residents along that stretch objected.
The about $1.7 million project improved the flow of traffic on-island during peak morning hours, but not off-island during the afternoon, according to annual town traffic data presented to the commission Wednesday.
The intersection has failed for more than a decade to meet town performance goals, Shoemaker said.
"Town leaders determined the impacts to residential neighborhoods were too great to proceed in 2008," he said. He said those impacts were "substantially less now" with the purchase of the property.Overall, traffic fell more than 6 percent this summer over last. Shoemaker attributed the decrease partially to the way the data was collected. Last year the information was taken over three days as opposed to one day -- June 7 -- this year.
An increasing number of residents and visitors are also leaving their cars at home and hopping on a bike during the summer, he said.
Shoemaker cautioned commissioners from reading too much into the numbers.
"It's risky to make broad generalizations" based on a narrow sample, he said.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.
- Island council may delay purchase of heirs property; parties working on relocation plan: June 15, 2011
- Hilton Head's purchase of heirs land fuels emotions; councilman cites 'mistake' in proposing sale: April 13, 2011