A $491,000 link between Malphrus Road and newly paved Foreman Hill Road in greater Bluffton is almost finished -- though some drivers are already acting as if the project is completed.
When it opens in about two weeks, Beaufort County officials expect the connector to ease traffic on U.S. 278. It will also offer a direct route between U.S. 278 and the Brighton Beach neighborhood.
Some motorists apparently can't wait that long and have begun removing the orange and white barricades that prevent through-traffic on the unfinished road.
"We have had some minor issues with people moving the traffic-control signs and not recognizing that the road is not ready to be used at this point," said Don Smith, a county construction manager. "They've actually dismantled some of the signs and put them in the ditch."
Beaufort-based Rea Contracting started work about three months ago to pave Foreman Hill Road from its intersection with Ulmer Road to its dead end. It also built a short connector to Malphrus Road. Previously, the roads were dead ends that did not meet.
Rea Contracting directed questions about the project to county staff.
Foreman Hill was one of several dirt roads scheduled to be paved this year through the county's Dirt Road Improvement Program. The county expects to spend about $4.8 million in 2011-2012 to pave at least 18 roads, according to documents. The Foreman Hill project was funded by state gasoline-tax revenue.
Jim Hoff, an instructor at Professional Golfers Career College in Bluffton, said he has seen the barricades out some days and gone others. He thought the road was already open.
There was no indication Tuesday afternoon that the road was closed. A few vehicles passed through the newly finished section, but traffic was minimal.
The entire section of Foreman Hill Road is paved, but center lines still need to be painted and some traffic signs installed. After that, Smith said, the road should be ready for drivers.